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Fossil footprints through geologic time

By Allison Vitkus1, Karen Chin1,2, and Martin Lockley1,3

1Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado Boulder, USA; 2Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, USA; 3Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Denver, USA

Picture this: You're walking on a sandy beach. You do not see any people, but you know that other people have traveled across the sand. Why? You can see their footprints.

We can say the same thing about trilobites, dinosaurs and other extinct animals. Even though we may not find body fossils, fossilized footprints tell us that ancient creatures walked through an area long ago.

Scientists have found many different types of tracks left by ancient animals, including fossilized footprints of dinosaurs, mammals, lizards, and arthropods. Fossil tracks can tell us many things. They can tell us how animals moved, what shape and how big their feet were, and the length of their steps. Some tracks can also provide clues about animal behavior, such as where they looked for food or whether they congregated in groups.

Explore this website and learn about the variety of fossil tracks that have been found worldwide, how they were made, and how they have been studied.

I. How tracks are preserved

II. The geography of fossil tracks

III. How do we study fossil tracks?

IV. Who made these fossil tracks?

V. Martin Lockley and the history of the University of Colorado Fossil Tracks Collection

NSF logo This site was funded by the National Science Foundation under award no. DBI 0955516