AFP reports via El Deber:
The 3,500 footprints belong, according to the researchers, to eight species of prehistoric animals and would place this Bolivian region of a pleasant temperate climate
A dinosaur in the Plaza de Torotoro. Photo BoliviaMia.net
A row of steps of sauropods, theropods and ankylosaurs of the Cretaceous period are observed in a bent rock of the Torotoro National Park, a new mecca of paleontology that has more than 3,500 dinosaur footprints.
At about 50 meters high by 30 meters wide, this limestone suffered an inclination of around 45 degrees due to tectonic movements and today is witness to a past that occurred, according to scientists, around 80 million years ago.
The footprints vary in size, between 20 and 50 centimeters, are in the southeast-northwest direction, in an apparent migration of animals through Torotoro, in the sub-Andean valleys of the department of Potosí, a National Park of some 16,570 hectares.
The 3,500 footprints belong, according to the researchers, to eight species of prehistoric animals and would place this region, of a pleasant temperate climate, in the second paleontological reserve of the country, after the reservation of Cal Orcko, in the southern department of Chuquisaca, where it is estimated that there are about 12,000 footprints of about 300 species of dinosaurs.
Bolivian paleontologist Ricardo Céspedes explains to AFP that “the first records” on dinosaur footprints in the paleontological sites of Bolivia correspond to several types of dinosaurs from different eras.
They belong mainly to three groups: theropods, carnivores that gave rise to the birds and left trek traces; the sauropods, gigantic herbivorous animals with very large footprints and similar to the brachiosaurs; and the ankylosaurs, which were armored animals.
Céspedes says that the traces of the first layer of calcareous rocks could go back some 86 million years. After “an absence of almost 10 million years”, another layer emerges with footprints of “around 76 to 72 million years,” he explains.
– More traces –
José Pérez, local tour guide, does not rule out that there may be more footprints than the 3,500 found so far in the hills and mountains that surround the town of Torotoro. “A more complete investigation is needed,” he says.
Pérez uses small rubber animals to explain to visitors what the dinosaurs were like that swarmed around the place and how they walked. He even bends over and gets on all fours to imitate an ankylosaur.
The National Park, one of the 22 that exists in Bolivia, is between 2,000 and 3,600 meters above sea level. The town of Torotoro is its rural capital and has about 12,000 Quechua inhabitants, mainly poor farmers.
Since the 1990s, the mayor’s office and its inhabitants have the aspiration of converting tourism into a source of income for the town, which is reached after five hours by vehicle along a tortuous dirt road.
– Rock paintings in “City of Itas” –
Torotoro was not only the habitat of prehistoric animals. The nearby “Ciudad de Itas”, a natural rock formation inside a hill with stone blocks that resemble walls, columns and door frames of up to 30 meters, also houses an artistic rock treasure.
A sun, snakes, llamas (Andean auquénidos) or even anthropomorphic figures are observed in some walls of the caves probably built by nomadic peoples 6,000 years ago.
In some caverns there are holes in the upper part, through which the faint light of day slips. The entrance to “Ciudad de Itas” is done through narrow passages, narrow bridle paths for one or two people and sharp slopes and steps. The formations are the result of wind, erosion and floods of millions of years.
Mario Jaldín, 66 years old and one of Torotoro’s oldest tour guides, points out that the origin of the city’s name differs. Before it was called “Ijtata” (city of stones, in the Aymara language) and “Ita” is very similar to the word “piedra” in Guaraní. However, it also says that someone in the past named it that way because it is very similar to a town of the Hittites, settled in present-day Turkey between the 18th and 13th centuries BC.
Many caves are still unexplored, complains Jaldín, who urges state aid for more research to help the area become a tourist pole.