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Digital Subscriptions > Rock & Gem Magazine > November 2018 > DINOSAUR ICHNOLOGY

DINOSAUR ICHNOLOGY

THE STUDY OF TRACKS COMES OF AGE

”…A DINOSAUR LEAVES ONE SKELETON, BUT MAKES MI L L IONS OF TRACKS. “

Indigenous Australians believe that these three-foot-long tracks of the large carnivorous dinosaur are those of their creator-spirit Marala, or “Emu Man.”
PHOTO BY DR. STEVE SALISBURY

As late as the 1970s, most paleontologists agreed that dinosaur tracks, while certainly interesting, had only minimal scientific value. But today, the study and interpretation of tracks is the basis of dinosaur ichnology, a subscience of paleontology that is providing an unprecedented understanding of the behavior of dinosaurs and the environment in which they lived—insights that cannot be gleaned from the study of fossilized bones.

Dinosaur ichnology — the word “ichnology” stems from the Greek ichnos, meaning “footprint” or “track” — is the study and interpretation of dinosaur tracks and traces.

Unlike bone fossils, trace fossils are records of the movement and behavior of ancient animals. Along with tracks, trace fossils include the remains of burrows, dens, feeding tunnels, nests, tooth and claw marks, tail-drag marks, and other features that were formed by living animals.

Paleontologists have documented more than 1,500 dinosaur-track sites worldwide and are finding more each year. Track sites or trackways, defined as a sequence of two or more tracks made by the same dinosaur, have been found on every continent except Antarctica. While some sites have only a few tracks, others have hundreds or even thousands. Collectively, these trackways represent 190 million years of geologic time, from the dawn of the dinosaurs 255 million years ago to their sudden demise 65 million years ago.

Dinosaur tracks were first documented more than two centuries ago. Although poorly understood at the time, they nevertheless intrigued both scientists and the public. But they later lapsed into a century-long period of obscurity from which they have only recently emerged.

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Rock & Gem November 2018, GEOLOGICAL GENESIS: Dating Mineral Deposits, A MODERN discovery in Silver valley, And More.....