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Re: More on the baby Triceratops

On Thu, 9 Mar 2006 08:43:25 -0500, Graydon wrote
> On Thu, Mar 09, 2006 at 02:54:39PM +1000, dannj@alphalink.com.au scripsit:
> > Of course, any arguement based on extremely fragmentary evidence (and
> > making behavioural inferences from footprints alone falls into this
> > category) is always open to debate. Whether or not the debate can be
> > settled one way or the other is another question...
> There's nothing fragmentary about the footprints -- those *do* represent
> what that animal was doing right then.

They're fragmentary evidence as far as behaviour inference goes. Footprints 
can tell you what the bottoms of the feet MAY have been doing at the time 
(different behaviours may result in similar prints, and vise versa). However 
there's more to an animal's behaviour than just what their feet are doing (or 
MIGHT have been doing). Plus assumptions have to be made concerning substrate 
characteristics (consistency, moisture content, etc) before you can make even 
basic calculations. Then there's the problem of proving contemporaneousness 
(did I invent that word?) of nearby trackways. Was it a herd of animals 
moving together, or a loose group of individuals travelling several minutes 
(or hours) apart? Was the theropod stalking the ornithopod, or were their 
tracks made hours apart and their shared course a coincidence? There are 
often too many assumptions that have to be made in order to make complex 
behavioural conclusions.

Reconstructing complex behavioural scenarios based only on trackways will 
always be subject to debate. It's not much different to creating phylogenies 
based only on skeletal material (or worse, just teeth).


Dann Pigdon
GIS / Archaeologist         http://heretichides.soffiles.com
Melbourne, Australia        http://www.geocities.com/dannsdinosaurs