Other fossils

Bones are not all that is left of dinosaurs. Occasionally the fossilized feces of dinosaurs and other vertebrates are found. Called coprolites, these sometimes impressive relics can give an intestine's-eye view of dinosaurian diets. Likewise, as we shall see later in this book, fossilized eggs and also skin impressions have been found.

Still, the single most important type of dinosaur fossil, other than the bones themselves, is trace fossils. Dinosaur trace fossils (sometimes also called ichnofossils; (ichnos - track or trace)) come as isolated footprints or as complete trackways. Figure 1.4 shows a mold, or impression, of a dinosaur footprint. We also find casts, which are made up of material filling up the mold. Thus a cast of a dinosaur footprint is a three-dimensional object that formed inside the impression (or mold).

Figure 1.4. Theropod dinosaur footprint from the Early Jurassic Moenave Formation, northeastern Arizona, USA. Human foot for scale.

In the last 20 years the importance of ichnofossils has been recognized. Ichnofossils have been used to show that dinosaurs walked erect, to reveal the position of the foot, and to reconstruct the speeds at which dinosaurs traveled. Trackways tell remarkable stories, such as that fateful day 70 or so million years ago when a large theropod was harassed by a pack of smaller theropods (Figure 1.5).

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