Dinosaur Tracks: The Next Steps

Dinosaur Tracks: The Next Steps

Dinosaur Tracks: The Next Steps

Dinosaur Tracks: The Next Steps


The latest advances in dinosaur ichnology are showcased in this comprehensive and timely volume, in which leading researchers and research groups cover the most essential topics in the study of dinosaur tracks. Some assess and demonstrate state-of-the-art approaches and techniques, such as experimental ichnology, photogrammetry, biplanar X-rays, and a numerical scale for quantifying the quality of track preservation. The high diversity of these up-to-date studies underlines that dinosaur ichnological research is a vibrant field, that important discoveries are continuously made, and that new methods are being developed, applied, and refined. This indispensable volume unequivocally demonstrates that ichnology has an important contribution to make toward a better understanding of dinosaur paleobiology. Tracks and trackways are one of the best sources of evidence to understand and reconstruct the daily life of dinosaurs. They are windows on past lives, dynamic structures produced by living, breathing, moving animals now long extinct, and they are every bit as exciting and captivating as the skeletons of their makers.


Peter L. Falkingham, Daniel Marty, and Annette Richter

The dinosauria are one of the most MORPHOLOGIcally diverse groups of terrestrial vertebrates (Alexander, 1989), spanning several orders of magnitude in size from the smallest hummingbird to the largest sauropods. Ancestrally bipedal, groups within the Dinosauria evolved into a range of habitually and facultatively bipedal and quadrupedal animals. Their skeletons have been found on every continent (Weishampel, Dodson, and Osmólska, 2004), and their fossilized footprints are known from all except Antarctica.

The public perception of dinosaurs comes almost exclusively via their skeletons, and much of our knowledge about how these enigmatic animals looked and lived comes from osteological information. But the bones can only reveal so much, being as they are the product of a dead animal. Footprints and traces, on the other hand, are made by an animal during its life and can therefore shed light on paleobiological aspects that are not preserved in osteological remains – aspects such as behavior, locomotion, or paleoecology.

Vertebrate tracks are biogenic sedimentary structures and not body fossils or biological objects in the common sense. They result from the complex interaction of three factors: the sediment (its consistency and resistance to deformation), the foot dynamics (i.e., the kinematics and kinetics, or motions and forces, of the distal-most limb), and the anatomy of the foot (Padian and Olsen, 1984; Minter, Braddy, and Davis, 2007; Falkingham, 2014). Once formed, both pre- and postlithification they are subject to all of the taphonomic processes that affect other sedimentary structures (Scott et al., 2007; Marty, Strasser, and Meyer, 2009). a track is an intricate structure, existing in three dimensions (3-D) both at and below the foot-sediment interface (i.e., there is both a 3-D surface and a 3-D volume component to the track). As a field, vertebrate ichnology has grown to accommodate this complex nature by becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, interfacing with other fields such as sedimentology, soil mechanics, and biomechanics, as well as more traditional taxonomic and paleontological fields.

Early dinosaur ichnology

Dinosaur ichnology has existed as a field for over 150 years, with fossil tracks being documented earlier than any osteological dinosaur material. the first recorded fossil vertebrate tracks were discovered in the 1820s in the Permian of Scotland, and (incorrectly) interpreted as turtle tracks by means of experimental ichnology by William Buckland (Pemberton, 2010). Shortly after, the famous Triassic archosaur tracks, named Chirotherium (Greek: hand animal) due to their . . .

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