FOOTPRINTS RECONSIDERED

The last few years have seen renewed interest in dinosaur footprints and trackways. Their history dates back to the early days of dinosaur research. Those discovered by Roland T. Bird of the American Museum discovered in Glen Rose, Texas footprints of a predator apparently tracking its prey, or a floating sauropod kicking itself along with its front feet. However, in the absence of proof concerning precisely which species of dinosaur left which tracks the evidence becomes circumstantial. Yet tracks are, apart from eggs, the only evidence that we have of what living dinosaurs did during their lifetime.

THE TRACKWAYS THAT R.T. BIRD DISCOVERED IN GLEN ROSE TEXAS

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Trackways provide instant evidence of the posture and style of locomotion of the trackmaker . The angle at which the feet are held is also characteristic: for example theropods tend to have footprints which face directly forward, while those of ornthiopods tend to be slightly turn inwards. Trackways may also indicate the speed at which an animal is moving. As might be expected, the majority of tracks are made by walking animals but there are a few exceptions which show small theropods running very quickly. There is also evidence to suggest that larger theropods may have been capable of moving at 20 or 30mph (30-40km/h)

Trackways may also provide indications of the social indications of the social preferences of dinosaurs. Herding can be indicated by large numbers of prints going the same way, and it may be possible in some instances to deduce herd structure. Indeed, herding and mass footprint sites are beginning to be looked at across large geographic areas to see whether there is any consistent evidence for migratory herding among dinosaurs.

THE TYPE OF TRACKWAY THAT MAY SUGGEST HERDING BEHAVIOUR

Trackways are likely to be left under particular environmental conditions. The ground must be fairly soft to show footprints, which gives clues about the ground surface and climate. This information, added to other known facts such as the addition of footprints of other animals are discovered in the same place it may prove possible to build up a picture of the local fauna.

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The evolution of dinosaurs can also be traced through footprints. For example Middle Triassic dinosaur-like footprints have been discovered. Such tracks are very rare with only three per cent of known tracks of this type and indicate perhaps the very earliest and rarest types. It has also been possible to chart the number increase in sauropodomorphs in the Jurassic and the later ornithopods in the Late Cretaceous period , quite independently of the body fossil record.

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  • Evolution of Locomotion
  • Dinosaur Posture
  • Dinosaur Leg Structure
  • Reading Sources
  • Diet Adaptations