Fossil vertebrate tracks as paleopenetrometers: Confounding effects of foot morphology

P. L. Falkingham, L. Margetts, P. L. Manning

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The depth to which a vertebrate track is indented can provide a wealth of information, being a direct result of the weight, duty factor, and limb kinematics of the animal as well as media ( substrate or sediment) consistency. In order to recreate the formation of the track and elucidate media consistency at the time of track formation, such factors as animal mass, duty factor, and foot morphology must be taken into consideration. This study uses Finite Element Analysis and physical modeling to demonstrate for the first time that the shape of the foot is an important factor that influences the depth to which the sediment is penetrated. In cohesive sediment, less compact morphology allows more sediment to move vertically upwards at the edges of the foot, dissipating force at the surface, and retarding transmission of load vertically down into the sediment. The reverse of this effect is seen in noncohesive sediment. Foot morphology, therefore, has a direct impact on preservation potential, both of surface tracks and undertracks, that is irrespective of the pressure exerted on the sediment surface by the foot and independent of mass and duty factor. Copyright © 2010, SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)356-360
    Number of pages4
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


    • finite element analysis
    • dinosaur tracks
    • preservation
    • sediments
    • mechanics
    • sand


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