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.

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 July 24, 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 July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

AP (July 22, 2014) Authorities say a 241-year-old church on the National Register of Historic Places has been ravaged by fire in Maryland. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. 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:
from the past week

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