Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who Went There? Matching Fossil Tracks With Their Makers

Date:
September 18, 2007
Source:
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Summary:
Fossilized footprints are relatively common, but figuring out exactly which ancient creature made particular tracks has been a mystery that has long stumped paleontologists. Scientists have now combined their expertise in anatomy and ichnology (the study of tracks) to match up the most common tracks with their makers. Detailed measurements of the tracks, combined with measurements of the legs, feet and backbones of the skeletal material allowed the team to pinpoint the trackmakers.

Skeleton of Lower Permian diadectomorph Orobates pabsti and restoration of how it may have appeared as the trackmaker ichnospecies Ichniotherium sphaerodactylum.
Credit: Artwork by Mark A. Klingler

Fossilized footprints are relatively common, but figuring out exactly which ancient creature made particular tracks has been a mystery that has long stumped paleontologists.

Related Articles


In the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a team of researchers overcome this dilemma for the first time, and link a fossil trackway to a well-known fossil animal.

Sebastian Voigt, a trackway expert from the Institute of Geology, Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, Germany, and David Berman and Amy Henrici of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, who study fossil skeletons, took a close look at an exceptional fossil collection from 290-million-year-old sediments of central Germany known as the Tambach Formation. The Bromacker locality in the Tambach Formation has been famous for its fossil footprints for well over a century, but “identifying the animals that made the tracks proved challenging,” commented Voigt.

Fortunately, the Bromacker locality offered clues to solving the problem for the paleontologists. Superbly detailed trackways were found in concert with exceptionally preserved skeletons, in the same sediments. “To have beautifully preserved trackways and skeletons at the same site is a unique situation for paleontologists — it provides a wonderful opportunity to better understand how these extinct animals lived,” noted Berman.

The team combined their expertise in anatomy and ichnology (the study of tracks) to match up the most common tracks with their makers. Detailed measurements of the tracks, combined with measurements of the legs, feet and backbones of the skeletal material allowed the team to pinpoint the trackmakers. The two most common skeletal fossils, Diadectes absitus and Orobates pabsti, grew to approximately 3 or 4 feet.

These closely related reptile-like creatures were some of the first four-legged plant eaters on land, and have no close living relatives. Their limb skeletons and size match them well to the Bromacker locality’s two most common types of trackway, scientifically named Ichniotherium cottae and Ichniotherium sphaerodactylum.

Sebastian Voigt said, “Now that we have matched the two most common skeletons to their trackways, it is time to turn our attention to the rarer animals. Our work opens new doors for delving into other paleobiological questions, including how Diadectes and Orobates walked.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "Who Went There? Matching Fossil Tracks With Their Makers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070915092239.htm>.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. (2007, September 18). Who Went There? Matching Fossil Tracks With Their Makers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070915092239.htm
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "Who Went There? Matching Fossil Tracks With Their Makers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070915092239.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins