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Dinosaur track

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Dinosaur tracks are fossilized footprints or other impressions that are typically found in sedimentary rock. Ichnology (Greek ichnos meaning footprint) is the study of tracks, trails, burrows and other traces left by living animals.

Dinosaur track fossils (ichnofossils) can be found at multiple locations around the world, and their general characteristics offer strong evidence that they were formed under catastrophic conditions. Furthermore, dinosaur tracks have been found with impressions made by other organisms that are believed to have evolved millions of years after the dinosaurs went extinct. Unconfirmed human-like tracks have even been found alongside or within the same depositional plain as those made by dinosaurs.

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Megatrack sites

Within North America, there are several "megatrack" sites, that is, track sites that have more than 100 dinosaur tracks. At many of these site, like the Red Fleet Megatrack Site in Utah (pictured at left), the dinosaur tracks predominantly go in a North East direction, suggesting the animals were fleeing in a common direction.

One of the slabs at the Red Fleet megatrack site, Utah. Photo by Ian Juby

In August of 2007, Ian Juby studied the Red Fleet site and counted 113 tracks above water at that time. Of those, 111 were going North East, 7 were traveling South West (the exact opposite direction) and two were going South. These tracks were on six different stratigraphic levels. These characteristics have been interpreted as the result of the dinosaurs moving in herds, however, modern herds have meanderings trail systems. Furthermore, the tracks are found always going in the same direction through several strata layers that are supposed to represent different geological ages. Some of these sites have tracks going in all directions, such as Dinosaur State Park and the Paluxy River where Dinosaur Valley State Park is located. However, even in these cases, the dinosaur tracks are always going in straight trails.

Dinosaur tracks have several other consistent oddities about them. Sauropod tracks are rare; the predominant tracks found are tridactyl (such as shown in Red Fleet photo). Juvenile tracks are also rare, and Glen Rose is one place that has both juvenile tracks and sauropod tracks. Usually the tracks are found in multiple layers, with no evidence of any long period of time in between the layers (i.e., no paleosols).

Track Formation

Model of tracks found in Texas. Tracks of a meat-eating theropod was found trailing a giant sauropod. At one location, the theropod track is missing a step.

The formation of any fossil track is debatable, especially so for dinosaur tracks. Essentially three models have been proposed, one by the uniformitarian camp, the other two by creationists.

Shallow Sea Model: To fit these tracks into the uniformitarian paradigm, it is suggested that the limestone layers were a shallow sea bed or shoreline. Dinosaurs would walk through the mud, which then was slowly covered and hardened. There are several problems with this model, some of which will be discussed within the other models presented. One that will be mentioned here is that even gentle waves destroy footprints in mud, even in shallow water mud. There are no footprints being preserved anywhere in the world today in this way. The present therefore cannot be the key to the past. Secondly, the tracks are often in limestone, which either hardens quickly (like cement) or doesn't harden at all. Lastly, this does not explain why the tracks have a tendency in straight lines and directions.

Tidal Bore Model: In Glen Rose, the limestone containing the tracks is quite thick, and had to have hardened quite quickly. The limestone and the marls beneath it contain many fossil clams, buried alive in the closed position, yet never in the living position. They've been tumbled. This indicates strong depositional currents, not a gentle, shallow sea bed. The Paluxy, like many other track sites, has multiple layers of dinosaur tracks.

The bible is quite clear that the flood was forty days on the earth before Noah's Ark was floated (Genesis 7:17,18), and it kept rising after that. So it would appear that the onset of the flood took at least a month and a half to fully encroach on the land. During this time, the tides would have been active, and ever stronger day by day as less and less land was exposed to hinder the tides. As a result, twice daily, the water would encroach higher upon the land, then recede. During the high tide, a tidal bore would deposit marls and limestone, such as we see at the Paluxy. During low tide, the dinosaurs would forage for food, then return to high ground at high tide. In the case of the Paluxy, this would explain why the dinosaur tracks there predominantly go away from and towards the Llano uplift; this was probably the high ground.

High Speed Floodwaters: Dr. John Baumgardner and Daniel Barnett were performing computer modeling on a global flood scenario. Serendipitously, they found that the flood waters would break down into giant, high-speed swirls by the Coriolis effect. Such extreme speeds were achieved that theoretically, there could be patches of land in the centers of the swirls where dinosaurs could have been trapped, making tracks in the freshly laid sediments.

Human-like Tracks

Tracks that resemble human footprints have been found in many locations, such as the former Soviet Union where scientists reported a layer of rock containing more than 2,000 dinosaur footprints.[1] Reports of human-like tracks at Paluxy River and two sites at the Dinosaur Valley State Park (‘Taylor Site’ and ‘Shelf Site’) triggered a heated debate. But further analysis revealed several problems with the interpretation. The size of the footprints and the length of the stride (1 meter) were much longer than the modern humans. Also the anatomical ratios would not positively identify them with modern human prints. Creation geologist Emil Silvestru finds it possible that the ichnofossils found at Paluxy River were from a dinosaur and the human-like appearance was the result of mud collapse. Silvestru analyzed similar findings at the Upper Cretaceous Dunvegan Formation of British Columbia. Human-like tracks were found by local creationists in an area that had previously yielded tracks of theropods as well as ankylosaur. However, after further investigation, it was concluded that the tracks were eroded metatarsal dinosaur footprints of an ornithopod.[2]

At present, the discovery of a confirmed human footprints in the same strata as those of dinosaurs remains unconfirmed and elusive.

Unique and Unusual Tracks

Dinosaur track from a coal mine in Utah.

In a few places, dinosaur tracks have been found in coal. Two primary places are the coal mines in Price, Utah, and at Grand Cache, Alberta. The photo on the right is an actual fossil footprint from the Price coal mine. The vegetation was laid down (quite thick) and then a dinosaur tread upon it, making an impression of its feet. Sediments then covered over the vegetation and hardened into rock, the vegetation turned into coal, and now when the coal is removed, solid rock "dinosaur tracks" can fall out of the ceiling of the mine.

Tyrell Museum dinosaur tracks labeled to show orientation of travel.

At the Tyrell museum in Drumheller, Alberta, there are numerous fossil dinosaur tracks on display. One of the displays is a large slab with four dinosaur tracks on it, numerous "burrows", and wave ripples. The dinosaur was walking at an oblique angle to the current, and consequently the influence of the current altered the orientation of the dinosaur's feet.

This reveals a number of things: a) The sediments were soft and influenced by the water. b) The sediments must have hardened very shortly after these tracks were made, or else the tracks would have been obliterated by the current. c) The same also applies to the burrows within these layers: The animals had to have burrowed out quickly, in order to escape the mud before it hardened. There are many impressions still within the rock that appear to be animals that did not escape in time.

Track Sites

  • Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas
  • Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill, Connecticut
  • Red Fleet Megatrack site, Utah, near Dinosaur National Monument
  • There are two dinosaur track sites in the immediate vicinity of Arches National Park and Moab, Utah. The park has directions and pamphlets to both.
  • Tuba City, Arizona Take highway 160, look for the signs. Not far from the Grand Canyon.
  • Tyrell Museum in Drummheller Alberta is a museum well worth seeing, and it happens to have a few dinosaur tracks on display, including the ones shown above.
  • Red Gulch track site, near Greybull, Wyoming: See the BLM website for directions: [1]

Recording Track Tips

  • Visit the site early morning or early evening to get cross-shadows. Trying to photograph a depression in a rock is very difficult.
  • A diffuser for sunlight helps photographs
  • If you can't take a photograph under proper lighting conditions, try getting low to the ground to take a photograph "across" the track.

Gallery

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References

  1. What about the Dinosaurs? by Dr. Walt Brown. In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, 8th Edition (2008)
  2. Human and dinosaur fossil footprints in the Upper Cretaceous of North America? by Emil Silvestru. Journal of Creation 18(2):114–120, August 2004.

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See Also

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