Trace fossils

can be trails, burrows, footprints, or fecal masses (coprolites). Ichnology is the name for the study of trace Fossils.
  • A wonderful trace fossil: a huge cache of chestnuts, 17 million years old, most likely made by a Miocene hamster. The discovery was announced in December 2003.

    Fossil Footprints

    Much recent work has been done on vertebrate footprints and trackways: see Lockley, M. G. 1998. The vertebrate track record. Nature 396: 429-432.

    Dinosaur Footprints
  • Dinosaur trackways. National Geographic News, March 10, 2003: a quick summary.
  • Trackway of a large running theropod dinosaur. BBC News OnLine, January 30, 2002, on a new paper in Nature, which is not universally available on the Web. This is the first proof that large theropods could run, though, of course, most people believed that they could on the basis of the skeleton. Reference: Day, J. J., et al. 2002. Dinosaur locomotion from a new trackway. Nature 415, 494-495.
  • Dinosaur behavior can be judged by footprints; for example, a dinosaur stampede has been discovered.
  • Dinosaur family footprints? BBC News OnLine, December 2, 2003. A claim that dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic of Scotland show an adult ornithopod accompanied by many youngsters. Wait until it's officially published.
  • The world's largest collection of dinosaur footprints


  • Coprolites are fossilised dung, and of course are trace fossils. Here is some research on sloth dung: Studying DNA from sloth dung. Press release, July 1998.
  • Dinosaur coprolites have produced very interesting results, mainly through the research of Karen Chin:
  • Not quite a coprolite: ichthyosaur vomit? National Geographic News, February 12, 2002. The evidence is a bit circumstantial, but on the whole plausible. It's is still a trace fossil.

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    Page last updated August 27, 2004.

    Links last checked September 30, 2005