They once were here, and besides leaving their fossils to prove such, they left their footprints; millions of them, in fact, left in sedimentary rocks found the world over. Some prints are large, and some are small. They are prints left by animals of a different time, a time long ago when the earth was warmer and plant life was more lush and more abundant.
Question is ... do these tracks reveal anything besides the types of dinosaurs that made them? Is there anything else we can learn from them?
Taking A Closer Look
Found all over the world are individual track ways, which are defined as more than one track from the same dinosaur. Interesting enough, they are almost always straight. Anyone can tell you that has ever followed animal tracks in the snow that the tracks normally meander, going this way and that. Why then do so many dinosaur tracks go straight? Straight track ways are indicative of a fleeing animal, but why would so many dinosaurs being fleeing?
Not long ago, researchers discovered forty straight, parallel track ways of two types of large plant-eating dinosaurs in southern England. Also found were the tracks of a large meat-eating dinosaur nearby, going in the same direction. As in most cases, there is more than one way to interpret the evidence. A: The meat-eater was chasing or following the two plant-eaters. B: Both types of dinosaurs were fleeing the same event in the same direction, which is why the tracks are going dead-straight, not winding this way and that as might be the case if the plant-eaters were trying to elude their predator.
Also of interest is the lack of baby or young juvenile tracks alongside older adult dinosaur tracks. A typical host of tracks should also include those of juveniles or babies, as is the case with elephants in Amboseli National Park, Africa. Approximately 50% of the tracks were made by babies or young juveniles. Why is such not the case with most dinosaurs? The lack of such tracks indicates that they were formed during unique conditions, where fleeing adults left the young behind in an attempt to escape ... something.
Where They're Found
They're only found on one type of surface, and that's flat bedding planes. This significance may elude some, so let us briefly explain. Flat bedding planes favor rapid sedimentation. Why? Erosion over just hundreds of years in the evolutionary timescale would have formed at least a hilly topography, exposing several bedding planes. Therefore, we should see track ways on different bedding planes, going up hills and descending into valleys. However, we don't.
Evidence Of A Disaster
What do these facts suggest? What is the answer to these seeming dilemmas?
Heading straight, babies or young juveniles missing, and located only on flat bedding planes ... the evidence suggests an aquatic disaster, one of which many dinosaurs, in futility, endeavored to escape. Conclusive proof? No, but evidence that points, literally, in one direction.
If the tracks were preserved as a result of a flood, how did it happen? How can it be explained? Whether or not the reader believes in the Biblical flood of Noah, we will endeavor to explain the footprints from such a perspective.
But remember, although the idea of a world-wide flood is often immediately equated with the Biblical text, it is not the only source which explains such a global catastrophe?. Truly, if millions of animals died at the mercy of deluging floods, and if people were around to see it, would we not have tales and legends written of such an awesome occurrence? Surprising to some, but not to others, we do.
"When mankind were overwhelmed with the deluge, none were preserved but a man named Coxcox . . . and a woman called Xochiquetzal, who saved themselves in a little bark, and having afterwards got to land upon a mountain called by them Colhuacan, had there a great many children; ...these children were all born dumb, until a dove from a lofty tree imparted to them languages, but differing so much that they could not understand one another."
This account comes from the Aztecs of Mexico - one of many such tales, from geographically remote and widely divergent cultures, that speak of a cataclysmic flood. Those familiar with the story of Noah will immediately notice the mention of a dove. Coincidence? Most unlikely.
In any case, dinosaur tracks are commonly found on top of hundreds to thousands of feet of sedimentary rock (e.g. the Rocky Mountains and high plains of North America). From erosional remnants it is known that the tracks were once buried by many hundreds of feet of sedimentary rocks laid down on top of them. Later, these sediments were eroded down to the level where we find the tracks. This fits well with the flood interpretation, as the water retreated off the rising continents into sinking ocean basins.
One thing that must be understood is that the flood did not smoothly envelope the earth, nor did it gently recede. It would have been a complex event, with tremendous forces causing rapid oscillations early on in the rise of the floodwaters. Because of shifting of the earth's crust and powerful currents sweeping the shallow landmasses, the sea level would have risen and fallen constantly.
Put To The Test
They began with a totally flooded earth, with all the water at rest. Geophysicists John Baumgardner and Daniel Barnette modeled the flood conditions as best they could. In a short time, according to their research, the earth's rotation would create strong currents of 90-180 mph (40 to 80 m/sec) over the barely submerged continents. What they also found, however, was that in some areas the sea level would fall by hundreds of feet and intersect the bottom. This pattern would have occurred so slowly that the land exposed would have remained for many days.
So How Were They Formed?
A theory is a theory, and cannot be unequivocally proven. So it is in this case. However, we believe the dinosaur tracks found today can best be interpreted in light of a flood.
Before the flood, the vast region in western North America (where the tracks are found) would have been a deep basin. In the early flood stages, the basin would have quickly filled with sediments, making the area shallow. As the sea level fell (as mentioned above), dinosaurs would have found various banks and shoals, and by swimming, or floating on debris, or walking from land bridges, the adult dinosaurs would have climbed onto the freshly formed sediments, made tracks, and laid eggs. As the waters again rose, the dinosaurs would have again, of course, tried to escape, leaving their straight track ways on single bedding planes. Afterwards, the rising waters would have quickly buried the tracks. The existence of dinosaur tracks, in fact, is evidence of such rapid burial.
If anything can be agreed on, it's that the dinosaur tracks we find today must have been preserved shortly after they were made. Tracks don't stay well-preserved out in the elements for very long, as any hunter will tell you. The debate essentially is: What event preserved them, and what do the tracks reveal about the dinosaurs that made them? What were they doing?
We have endeavored to explain what they were doing based on certain observations. The evidence we have presented should, if nothing more, be thought-provoking, challenging the reader to rethink not only when they were made, but also during what horrific circumstances they were made in.
1. Michael Oard, In The Footsteps Of Giants, Creation, pp. 10-12, March-May, 2003. Vol. 25 No.2.
2. Lockley, M. and Hunt, A.P., Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossils Footprints of the Western United States, Columbia University Press, New York, P. 165, 1995.
Tommy Pendley Photo
From the cover of Dinosaur State Park
Far from a peaceful, slow rising of floodwaters, the flood was a complex, powerful, and destructive event