Friday, February 4, 2011

Secrets of dinosaur footprints revealed, thanks to 'Goldilocks'

Terrain thought to be ruled by only the largest dinosaurs to inhabit Earth could have in fact been home to dozens of other creatures, ground-breaking research from The University of Manchester has found.

Writing in the journal of the Royal Society Interface, Dr. Peter Falkingham has discovered that dinosaurs only created lasting footprints if the soil conditions were perfect to do so -- and entirely depending on the animal's weight.

Dubbed the 'Goldilocks Effect' -- as all conditions have to be 'just right' for a print to be created -- this work could help to bring ancient environments to life, by showing how a great number of animals can walk over an area, but only a few leave behind tracks.

The findings mean that hugely-significant prehistoric dinosaur track sites, such as Paluxy River in Texas, USA, or Fumanya, Spain could have been host to a much larger number of dinosaurs and other animals than the tracks themselves show.

... Dr. Falkingham's findings suggest that many more species probably lived there, walking over the same mud, but their footprints either made no impression or have disappeared over time.

The computer method was based on a technique common in engineering, known as finite element analysis.

This method lets scientists simulate the deformation of a material under load. While in engineering this may be an airplane wing supporting the aircraft, Dr. Falkingham and his co-authors applied the method to mud supporting a dinosaur.

via Secrets of dinosaur footprints revealed, thanks to 'Goldilocks'.

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