Ichnology: The Study of Tracks and Traces
What is Ichnology?
Ichnology is the scientific term for the study of tracks and traces. This includes vertebrate footprints, nests, and burrows, and some would even argue that eggs, fossilized feces and bite marks count in this category too. The term also refers to invertebrate movement traces, burrows and borings. Ichnology is the single greatest evidence for behavior of extinct animals.
Check out these resources to learn more about traces:
- Trace Fossil Image Database (more info)
- Ichnofacies - This page shows the transition in burrow types from a near-shore marine area to a beach.
Check out these resources to learn more about tracks:
- Trackroom Tour (more info) - some photographs of dinosaur tracks from the Connecticut River valley.
- Ichnology of Sea Turtles (more info) - Ever wondered how trackways are made and fossilized? This page looks at trackways of modern sea turtles and their ancient relatives.
- Photo Gallery of Dinosaur Tracks (more info) - An extensive image collection from the Glen Rose State Park dinosaur tracksite.
- Dinosaur Tracks and Trackways ( This site may be offline. ) - This page includes explanations of all aspects of dinosaur track formation from preservation to behavior.
Check out these resources to learn more about trackways:
- Dinosaur footprints in Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary beds on the Isle of Portland (more info) - This is a scientific presentation with figures of tracks and trackways.
- Triassic megatracksites in carbonate tidal flats of the Germanic Basin (more info) - This is another presentation including figures of tracks and trackways
Check out these resources for ideas on teaching about traces, tracks and trackways:
- A Laboratory Exercise on Determining Dinosaur Speeds Using Dimensional Analysis This Journal of Geoscience Education article describes a laboratory exercise in which measurements from a dinosaur trackway are used to estimate how fast the dinosaur track makers were moving. The exercise, which is appropriate for any introductory earth-science course at the secondary-school or college level, introduces students to dimensional analysis by having them construct an empirical graph of dimensionless stride length versus dimensionless velocity. The students then estimate the dimensionless stride length from the trackway data and use the dimensionless graph to determine the speeds of the dinosaurs.
- Footprints as Inquiry-Based Learning Tools This Journal of Geoscience Education article describes three activities using biogenic and physical traces in the recreation of past events to help develop student understanding of the process of science without sacrificing substantive geoscience content. Human footprints, dinosaur trackways, and sliding-rock trails investigations presented here can be utilized in a variety of K-12 grade levels.