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Ancient mammal tracks found

This undated photo provided by the Dinosaur National Monument shows a small fossil mammal footprint, no bigger than a dime.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
This undated photo provided by the Dinosaur National Monument shows a small fossil mammal footprint, no bigger than a dime. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

SALT LAKE CITY – Scientists at Dinosaur National Monument said they have found hundreds of tiny footprints left by mammals 190 million years ago.

Dan Chure, paleontologist at the monument, said he and paleontologist George Engelmann of the University of Nebraska at Omaha spotted the tracks earlier this month on a canyon wall.

Chure said the tracks are a rare find. They were left when the area was a vast Sahara-like desert, where towering sand dunes seldom preserved signs of life.

Most of the tracks are smaller than a dime. Chure said the mammals – perhaps the size of a rat – were among the few species able to survive between large sand dune fields where there was water, dinosaurs and a few plants. Dinosaur National Monument straddles the Utah-Colorado border.