Paper No. 20-3
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM
ACTUALISTIC STUDY OF VERTEBRATE ICHNOLOGY—UNDERSTANDING THE BEHAVIOR THAT PRODUCES TRACKWAYS, SWIM TRAILS, AND FEEDING PATTERNS OF VERTEBRATES
Tracks, trackways, trails, swim tracks, and feeding patterns of vertebrates preserved since the Devonian record their locomotion in terrestrial, semiterrestrial, and aquatic environments in continental, transitional, and marine settings. The major question that often comes to mind concerning these locomotion and feeding patterns is what was the animal actually doing? Was the movement fast pace, slow, or variable? Was the animal interacting with another not revealed by tracks or trackways? Was the water in which the locomotion or feeding trace made relatively deep or shallow? Was the media firm, moist, soft, wet, or underwater? Our focus is not the details of biomechanics or the pattern of sediment deflection caused by foot-fall speed, directional force, and weight, but rather the the basic observations and details of behaviors and the environmental conditions in which they were produced by vertebrates. Through an integrated approach in laboratory experimental setups and in natural settings, we have used multiple recording mechanisms, such as controlled media consistency (grain size, compaction, moisture levels), casting techniques, photography, and videography to understand better the behaviors of terrestrial and aquatic organisms that result in trace fossils. We also study the modern settings in which trackways, tracks, and trails are produced to capture their significance for interpreting the physicochemical settings of the environment. Our recent studies have involved a variety of fishes, birds, bats, and elephants. Fish feeding, nesting, and swimming behaviors have been observed in the Bahamian islands, South Pacific islands, and Lake Tanganyika to determine how varieties of such traces as Undichna and Piscichnus are produced and why they are produced in that manner. Birds, wild and domesticated, have been studied in the wild, in urban settings, and on farms to study takeoff and landing behaviors and behaviors of interactions with other birds. Bats have been studied to determine what types of tracks and trackways they might produce when on the ground, whether by choice or by the circumstances confronted in nature; these experiments, however, have large human presence involved. Elephants have been studied, in cooperation of zoos, to understand behaviors they exhibit in everyday life.