Cal Orcko, Bolivia 2019


    While trekking in Southern Bolivia, I found myself staying at Sucre for the night.  There, I had the opportunity to visit Cal Orcko site.  The Cal Orcko is home to the world’s largest and most diverse collection of dinosaur footprints from the Cretaceous Period. It is only 4.4 km North-West of Sucre.

Bolivia area map

     The limestone cliff hosts about 12,000 dinosaur footprints, with many dating back 68 million years.

Cal Orcko near Sucre, Bolivia 2019

     Discovered on the grounds of the local cement company Fancesa in 1985, the cliff was closed off to tourists after mining conditions and erosion began damaging the area.

Dinosaur footprints seen on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, Bolivia

     Four years later, when a team of scientists led by a famed Swiss paleontologist was able to visit, the wall was named “the largest site of dinosaur tracks found so far.”

Dinosaur footprints seen on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, Bolivia

     There are so many tracks, actually — and they’re placed in such strange patterns — that some scientists refer to the area as a “dinosaur dance floor.”

Dinosaur footprints seen on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, Bolivia

     So far, six different types of dinosaur prints have been identified. One special track that measures 347 meters is the longest dinosaur track-way ever discovered and was made by a small Tyrannosaurus rex like dinosaur called a Teropodo.

Image from a  sign in the museum at Cal Orcko in Bolivia

         Eight other limestone walls with dinosaurs tracks have been found in the region. Millions of years ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth, this area was part of a huge shallow lake.

Dinosaur footprints seen on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, Bolivia

     The tectonic plate shifts during the Tertiary period that formed the great Andes Mountains also pushed some of these limestone walls out from the bed of the lake. The rock cliff measures about 325 feet tall and juts into the sky at a 70 degree angle.

Dinosaur footprints seen on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, Bolivia

     The Cal Orcko is considered to be in the geographical area of the   Altiplano/Cordillera Oriental. The tracks are found in the geological El Molino Formation (Cretaceous). Oolitic fossiliferous limestone, associated with large, freshwater stromatolites and nine levels of dinosaur tracks (a.k.a. trace fossils) in the El Molino Formation document an open lacustrine environment.  Lacustrine is a geological term for lake.  

Dinosaur footprints seen on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, Bolivia

The high-resolution mapping of the site from 1998 to 2015 revealed a total of 12,092 individual dinosaur tracks in 465 dinosaur track-ways.

Dinosaur footprints seen from below on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, (sauropod track)

     Nine different morphotypes of dinosaur tracks have been documented. Amongst them are several trackways of theropods, ornithopods, ankylosaurs and sauropods, with the latter group accounting for 26% of the trackways.

Dinosaur footprints seen from below on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, (sauropod track).
Dinosaur footprints seen from below on the cliff face of Cal Orcko, (sauropod tracks)

    

Cal Orcko near Sucre, Bolivia 2019

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