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Constructing and testing hypotheses of dinosaur foot motions from fossil tracks using digitization and simulation

Falkingham, PL, Turner, ML and Gatesy, SM (2020) Constructing and testing hypotheses of dinosaur foot motions from fossil tracks using digitization and simulation. Palaeontology. ISSN 0031-0239

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Abstract

Whilst bones present a static view of extinct animals, fossil footprints are a direct record of the activity and motion of the track maker. Deep footprints are a particularly good record of foot motion. Such footprints rarely look like the feet that made them; the sediment being heavily disturbed by the foot motion. Because of this, such tracks are often overlooked or dismissed in preference for more foot‐like impressions. However, the deeper the foot penetrates the substrate, the more motion is captured in the sediment volume. We have used deep, penetrative, Jurassic dinosaur tracks which have been naturally split into layers, to reconstruct foot motions of animals living over 200 million years ago. We consider these reconstructions to be hypotheses of motion. To test these hypotheses, we use the Discrete Element Method, in which individual particles of substrate are simulated in response to a penetrating foot model. Simulations that produce virtual tracks morphologically similar to the fossils lend support to the motion being plausible, while simulations that result in very different final tracks serve to reject the hypothesis of motion and help generate a new hypothesis.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0403 Geology, 0602 Ecology, 0603 Evolutionary Biology
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Q Science > QE Geology > QE701 Paleontology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (new Sep 19)
Publisher: Wiley
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2020 11:14
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2020 11:15
DOI or Identification number: 10.1111/pala.12502
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13997

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