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In the mid-1980s paleontologist Jerry MacDonald brought national recognition to the Robledo Mountains, located northwest of Las Cruces, NM, when he found abundant fossilized trackways of ancient vertebrates and invertebrates. These trackways belong to the Permian Period (299-252 million years ago), tens of millions of years before the dinosaurs, at the end of the Paleozoic Era (542 -252 million years ago). Research conducted by scientists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS), in collaboration with researchers from around the world, has proven the Robledo trackways to be one of the most important examples of the life habits of Late Paleozoic terrestrial animals. The fossil record in the Robledo Mountains has given scientists a unique window hundreds of millions of years in the past and because of this it was dedicated as Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) in March of 2009.


The PTNM also contains fossils of other types, equally important and of interest to a broad range of scientists. Among these are various remains of fossil plants, studied by scientists from the Smithsonian, University of London and University of California, Berkeley. The most common of these fossils are primitive conifers, some of which are the earliest of their kind yet found.

During the Early Permian Period, the Robledo Mountains were located near the edge of the ancient Pangaean supercontinent, very close to the equator. In this area, deposits of oceanic rocks, mainly limestones and coastal-plain terrestrial rocks, especially shales and sandstones, were deposited as the shoreline oscillated in position through time. Consequently, in this area the marine and terrestrial rocks are interlayered, helping to link the mostly marine deposits to the south with the mostly terrestrial deposits to the north. Scientists from the NMMNHS, the University of Innsbruck, and the University of Illinois have been working on the geology of the area, linking it to other areas of the formerly western parts of Pangaea.

These videos about the Monument, filmed between February 28th and March 4th, 2011, document the research of the various scientists, working together and with staff of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The filming was done in partnership with faculty and students from the Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University (NMSU), who agreed to record and produce these webvideos.

This project was made possible in part with funds provided through a BLM NLCS Grant. The various activities were designed and carried out by Staff of the BLM PTNM, Smithsonian Institution, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, NMSU Creative Media Institute, Illinois State Geological Survey- Prairie Research Institute, and Royal Holloway, University of London. The assistance and expertise of Mr. Jerry MacDonald of Las Cruces, NM was central to the success of this project; his long and tireless efforts on behalf of the Monument are gratefully acknowledged.

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, New Mexico Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History

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In the mid-1980s paleontologist Jerry MacDonald brought national recognition to the Robledo Mountains, located northwest of Las Cruces, NM, when he found abundant fossilized trackways of ancient vertebrates and invertebrates. These trackways belong to the Permian Period (299-252 million years ago), tens of millions of years before the dinosaurs, at the end of the Paleozoic Era (542 -252 million years ago). Research conducted by scientists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS), in collaboration with researchers from around the world, has proven the Robledo trackways to be one of the most important examples of the life habits of Late Paleozoic terrestrial animals. The fossil record in the Robledo Mountains has given scientists a unique window hundreds of millions of years in the past and because of this it was dedicated as Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) in March of 2009.


The PTNM also contains fossils of other types, equally important and of interest to a broad range of scientists. Among these are various remains of fossil plants, studied by scientists from the Smithsonian, University of London and University of California, Berkeley. The most common of these fossils are primitive conifers, some of which are the earliest of their kind yet found.

During the Early Permian Period, the Robledo Mountains were located near the edge of the ancient Pangaean supercontinent, very close to the equator. In this area, deposits of oceanic rocks, mainly limestones and coastal-plain terrestrial rocks, especially shales and sandstones, were deposited as the shoreline oscillated in position through time. Consequently, in this area the marine and terrestrial rocks are interlayered, helping to link the mostly marine deposits to the south with the mostly terrestrial deposits to the north. Scientists from the NMMNHS, the University of Innsbruck, and the University of Illinois have been working on the geology of the area, linking it to other areas of the formerly western parts of Pangaea.

These videos about the Monument, filmed between February 28th and March 4th, 2011, document the research of the various scientists, working together and with staff of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The filming was done in partnership with faculty and students from the Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University (NMSU), who agreed to record and produce these webvideos.

This project was made possible in part with funds provided through a BLM NLCS Grant. The various activities were designed and carried out by Staff of the BLM PTNM, Smithsonian Institution, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, NMSU Creative Media Institute, Illinois State Geological Survey- Prairie Research Institute, and Royal Holloway, University of London. The assistance and expertise of Mr. Jerry MacDonald of Las Cruces, NM was central to the success of this project; his long and tireless efforts on behalf of the Monument are gratefully acknowledged.

    • video
    Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) Field Trip

    Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) Field Trip

    Visit Prehistoric Trackways National Monument with high school students and learn as they learn about the monument’s fossil resources from Jerry MacDonald and other visiting paleontologists.

    • 12 分鐘
    • video
    Robledo Mountain Geology

    Robledo Mountain Geology

    Geology of the PTNM and region discussed by Spencer Lucas, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Dr. Lucas explains the geologic forces that shaped the Monument and the ways in which geologists study and describe the exposures.

    • 12 分鐘
    • video
    The Discovery!

    The Discovery!

    Jerry MacDonald talks about the discovery of trackways in the Monument and the history of his work and that of collaborators within the PTNM, leading to its designation as a National Monument.

    • 11 分鐘
    • video
    Red Rock Traces

    Red Rock Traces

    Jerry MacDonald and Spencer Lucas talk about how trace fossils are made, who the track makers were, and what this tells us about similarities and differences between coastal ecosystems of the modern world and those of the of the Early Permian world.

    • 6 分鐘
    • video
    Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) Tracks

    Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) Tracks

    Lilia-Rosa Salmon and Jerry MacDonald discuss the various kinds of trackways found in the PTNM, the track-making animals, and the environments in which the trackways were preserved, including settings in which the animals walked over plant remains.

    • 14 分鐘
    • video
    Permian Era Plant Fossils

    Permian Era Plant Fossils

    The plant fossils, particularly conifers, found in the PTNM, discussed by Smithsonian paleobotanist Bill DiMichele and Jerry MacDonald. Included are descriptions of the plants and how the fossils may have formed.

    • 10 分鐘

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