Fossil tracks and trails

Left: Ichniotherium, cast of fossil tracks left by an early tetrapod (a vertebrate animal that walked on four feet) during the Permian Period of what is now Germany (UCM 139.98). Right: Cochlichnus, fossil trails possibly left by a type of worm (UCM 230.38). Often it's difficult to tell exactly what kind of organism made a trace fossil. Both photos courtesy of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

Tracks are individual foot prints. But some animals don't have feet at all! Worms and other footless organisms make trails on sediment surfaces instead of tracks. Fossil tracks and trails are both examples of trace fossils; trace fossils record evidence of an organism's activity, whereas body fossils provide evidence for the morphology (form) of ancient organisms.

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