Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of Europe

Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of Europe

Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of Europe

Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of Europe

Synopsis

The long and distinguished tradition of tracking dinosaurs and other extinct animals in Europe dates back to the 1830s. Yet this venerable tradition of scientific activity cannot compare in magnitude and scope with the unprecedented spate of discovery and documentation of the last few years. Now, following on the heels of his Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of the Western United States, Martin Lockley teams up with Christian Meyer to present an up to date synthesis of the recent findings in the field of European fossil footprints. Drawing extensively on their own research results from studies in Britain, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, and elsewhere, the authors create a dynamic picture of mammal, reptile, bird, and amphibian "track-makers" throughout more than 300 million years of vertebrate evolution, placed in the context of Europe's changing ancient environments. Beginning with an introduction to tracking and a history of the European tracking tradition, Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of Europe then charts a broad path of evolutionary proliferation from the proto-dinosaurs of the Early Triassic period to the dinosaurs' decline and disappearance in the Upper Cretaceous. The survey continues into the age of mammals and birds, ending with the cave art of our Paleolithic ancestors.

Excerpt

There has been a long and distinguished tradition of tracking dinosaurs and other extinct animals in Europe. This tradition dates back to the first scientific report on a set of Permian fossil footprints from Scotland in 1828, which were at first incorrectly interpreted as the spoor of tortoises. This tradition of early track discoveries, and confusion over the trackmakers, continued in the 1830s with the discovery of the controversial Triassic “hand animal” footprint named Chirotherium. Although this was the first fossil footprint ever given a formal Latin name, it was not attributed to the proper trackmaker for almost a century. Even so, some of the leading paleontologists and geologists of the day paid considerable and serious attention to fossil footprints, knowing full well that they shed new light on the history of vertebrates that could not be obtained from the sparse record of bones then available.

Between the 1840s and 1860s, large Cretaceous dinosaur tracks from England were discovered and attributed, by some observers, to the well-known herbivorous dinosaur Iguanodon. By then the first fossil footprints from North America had been described and attributed to giant birds. Thus, American trackers also had trouble identifying trackmakers. It appears, however, that the identification of Iguanodon footprints was correct, and so it was the first dinosaur correctly correlated with its spoor. Early in the twentieth century Sir Arthur Conan Doyle incorporated information on Iguanodon and its tracks into his famous story “The Lost World.”

Despite ongoing discoveries and a steady stream of detailed reports, including some encyclopedic compilations, on dinosaur tracks and other fossil footprints . . .

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