Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/538

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and only occasionally put to the ground their smaller anterior extremities. I have myself detected the impressions of these anterior limbs in connection with the posterior footprints of nearly all of the supposed "bird-tracks" described, and have little doubt that they will eventually be found with all. These double impressions are precisely the kind which Dinosaurian reptiles would make, and, as the only characteristic bones yet found in the same rocks belong to animals of this group, it is but fair to attribute all these footprints to Dinosaurs, even where no impressions of fore-feet have been detected, until some evidence appears that they were made by birds. I have no doubt that birds existed at this time, although at present the proof is wanting.

The principal genera of Triassic reptiles known from osseous remains in this country are—Arnphisaurus (Megadactylus), from the Connecticut Valley; Bathygnathus, from Prince Edward's Island; Belodon, and Clepsysaurus. Other generic names which have been applied to footprints and to fragmentary remains need not here be enumerated. A few remains of reptiles have been found in undoubted Jurassic rocks of America, but they are not sufficiently well determined to be of service in this connection.[1] Others have been reported from supposed Jurassic strata, which are now known to be Cretaceous. It will thus be seen that, although reptilian life was especially abundant during the Triassic and Jurassic periods, but few bones have been found. This is owing in part to the character of most of the rocks then formed, which were not well fitted for preserving such remains, although admirably adapted to retain footprints.

During the Cretaceous period, reptilian life in America attained its greatest development, and the sediments laid down in the open seas and estuaries were usually most favorable for the preservation of a faithful record of its various phases. Without such a perfect matrix as some of these deposits afford, many of the most interesting vertebrates recently brought to light from this formation would probably have remained unknown. The vast extent of these beds insures, moreover, many future discoveries of interest.

In the lowest Cretaceous strata of the Rocky Mountain region, the Dakota group, part of which at least represents the Wealden of Europe, remains of Chelonia, or Turtles, Crocodiles, and Dinosaurs occur, the last being especially abundant. The Chelonia; although known from the Jurassic of Europe, here appear for the first time in American rocks. Some of the earliest forms are allied to the modern genus Trionyx. In the higher Cretaceous beds, some Chelonians of enormous size have been found. They belong to the genus Atlantochelys, which has the ribs separate, as in the existing Sphargis,[2]

  1. Since this address was delivered, I have determined the beds containing gigantic Dinosaurs, on the flanks of the Rocky Mountains, to be upper Jurassic, and called them Atlantosaurus Beds. (See frontispiece, section.) These strata were formerly referred to the Dakota group, or base of the Cretaceous.—O. C. M.
  2. Sphargis, a genus of turtles inhabiting the Atlantic and Mediterranean. They are