Fossil footprint discoveries and what they inform us

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Footprints on a sandy floor don’t normally final lengthy: they’re washed away by water, worn out by wind or lined over by new tracks. At sure websites in southern Africa, although, some traces of animals have lasted for a lot of 1000’s and even tens of millions of years – fleeting moments preserved in sand that turned to rock.

They inform scientists in regards to the creatures that lived in historic occasions, how they behaved and what their atmosphere was like. Learning fossil footprints additionally provides to what the physique fossil document reveals.

In these articles from our archive, scientists share a few of their thrilling fossil footprint finds.

Zebra crossing – with a distinction

Charles Helm research the fossilised tracks, trails, burrows and excavations made by animals. He’s found how, tens of 1000’s of years in the past, an enormous horse species roamed alongside South Africa’s Cape south coast.

These findings additionally revealed that these Large Cape Zebras will need to have been a reasonably common sight on the panorama. An perception that physique fossil data don’t present.

Learn extra:
New discovery: fossilised large zebra tracks present in South Africa

Oldest human footprints

Armed with specialist abilities and world-class know-how, Charles Helm additionally teamed up with geographer Andrew Carr to examine tracks alongside South Africa’s coast. That’s how they recognized one thing actually outstanding: a footprint left by one among our human ancestors 153,000 years in the past. To date, it’s the oldest footprint on the earth attributed to our species, Homo sapiens

They defined how the discovering additionally confirms that the Cape south coast was an space during which early fashionable people survived, advanced and thrived, earlier than spreading out of Africa to different continents.

Learn extra:
World’s oldest _Homo sapiens_ footprint recognized on South Africa’s Cape south coast

Dinosaur behaviour insights

Right now, dinosaur fossils might be discovered in lots of elements of the world. South Africa and Lesotho’s most important Karoo Basin, for instance, comprises many dinosaur fossils and dinosaur markings, like footprints.

Miengah Abrahams explains that fossil footprints are a treasure chest of data. They’ll reveal what organism made the tracks, supply clues to their behaviour and even present proof in regards to the circumstances during which they lived. She outlines what’s been learnt from dinosaur tracks within the Karoo Basin.

Learn extra:
Footprints take science a step nearer to understanding southern Africa’s dinosaurs


An surprising discovery

On this article, Miengah Abrahams tells the story of how she unexpectedly got here throughout some new dinosaur footprints in Lesotho. For a geologist learning dinosaur tracksites this wasn’t a large shock, however it was the primary time a dinosaur from the ornithischian group – a four-footed, plant-eating, “bird-hipped” neighborhood – had been documented within the Roma Valley, an space wealthy in fossil footprints.

Learn extra:
Dinosaur tracksite in Lesotho: how a flawed flip led to an thrilling discover


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