Exocampe: These tracks don’t belong to dinosaurs, but rather lizard-like creatures with the tongue twisting name of Sphenodontians. These plant eaters were quite common in the Jurassic Era but only one kind remains today, the Tuatara of New Zealand.
Batrachopus: Also non-dinosaurian, these tracks were probably made by a primitive crocodile-like animal called Protosuchus. It walked on four legs. Look for its restoration when you visit. Both Batrachopus and Exocampe tracks attest to the comprehensive look you get at St. George of Jurassic life – it wasn’t just about dinosaurs.
What else makes the site important? An indoor boardwalk takes you above the the prehistoric lakebed of Lake Dixie. Called The Lake Dixie Discovery Trail, you get to puzzle over the marks and impressions made by countless ancient creatures. This is a rare opportunity to view an original track surface. A recent addition to the museum, the trail allows you to get up close to the lakebed without damaging the surface. Tracks and other features are clearly noted.
(The photograph below shows the Discovery Walk before completion in April, 2016. It is now detailed and finished.)
Tired of looking down? Look up. Flying high is a restoration of Dimorphodon. It’s a pterosaur, a group often mistakenly called pterodactyls. These flying lizards might have been above Lake Dixie 200 million years ago. Pterosaurs represent the largest animals to have ever flown. But size isn’t everything in the the Jurassic. What about organisms with only one cell?
Stromatolites are often touted as the oldest fossils on earth. You may have seen them sold in rock shops or shows. They can date back billions of years. Stromatolites still exist today in places like Shark Bay, Australia and the Great Salt Lake in Utah. They are made up of cyanobacteria that grow up in layers, forming large mounds. SGDS has fossilized remains, as well as a living stromatolite from the Great Salt Lake. They may not be the prettiest things, but they represent a link to time before complex life existed on earth.
Since we’re at the tail end of this article, I should mention other tails. The museum has a rare cast of a dinosaur tail drag, that activity preserved forever in stone. There are also tail drag molds in different places at the museum. Be sure to look for them before you leave.
In closing, make sure to talk with the enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers. They made my trip. If you’re not sure what to ask, ask them what their favorite exhibit is. Or what they think the most important thing is to see at the site. Before you know it, you’ll have them engaging in warm and excited tones about all things dinosaur. Their passion is catching and you’ll come away eager to know more and to return again someday.