Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dinosaur Dance Floors

Dinosaur tracks fall into the category that archaeologists call "trace fossils," which describes any sort of preserved marks made by an ancient animal while it was still alive.  Two very interesting collections of dinosaur tracks have been discovered fairly recently and both were dubbed "dinosaur dance floors" due to the number of tracks preserved there and the number of different animals which apparently made those tracks.

The photograph above is from a site discovered in 1994 in Bolivia, about 20 miles from the town of Sucre.  It contains over 5,000 tracks in a bed that has been tilted upwards at a seventy-degree angle from the level.  Almost three hundred different animals may be responsible for the different trace fossils here, including a singular track running for almost 1,140 feet created by a young Tyrannosaur nicknamed "Johnny Walker" by archaeologists.  Here's another web page discussing the "Dinosaur Dance Floor" site in Bolivia.

More recently, geologists from the University of Utah discovered a site in northern Arizona whose impressions were previously believed to be potholes caused by weathering but which are now thought to be dinosaur tracks as well.  Although some paleontologists continue to disagree that the markings are actually dinosaur tracks, this photograph from the site appears conclusive, as do some of the "tail-drag" marks which are very rarely preserved where dinosaur footprints are preserved (leading some scientists to argue that dinosaurs somehow held their mighty tails aloft when they walked).

How were dinosaur tracks preserved in what is now stone, anyway?  This question is actually one that remains difficult to answer under conventional models, and one that scientists continue to work on.  It is so difficult to imagine conditions that would allow such trace fossils to be preserved that scientists use the term "Goldilocks" or the "Goldilocks effect" to underscore that a multitude of factors must all be "just right" in order to lead to track preservation.

The hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown provides a more comprehensive solution for the mystery of dinosaur tracks and other trace fossils, and one that can explain many of the puzzling aspects of such fossil sites quite well.  He discusses dinosaur tracks in particular in the important chapter of his book dealing with the phenomenon of liquefaction, which has been examined in previous blog posts dealing with the layering found at the Grand Canyon (not far from the Arizona "dinosaur dancefloor").

Regarding the creation of fossilized dinosaur tracks, Dr. Brown explains:
Almost all trackways moved uphill, and traces of the animal’s bodies are never found, even as fossils. Obviously, thick sediments must have gently and quickly blanketed the footprints to prevent their erosion—but how? Evolutionists have difficulty explaining what protected these delicate footprints. How did it happen? During the early weeks of the flood, flutter amplitudes were large enough for the crust to rise repeatedly, but slowly, out of the flood waters. [See “Water Hammers and Flutter Produced Gigantic Waves” on page 188.] Frightened animals—and sometimes dinosaurs—scampered uphill onto the rising land, each leaving footprints. Minutes later, the crust again submerged, allowing sediments falling through the thick muddy waters to blanket and protect the prints while the rising water swept the animals’ bodies away.
This explanation describes a scene of terror, far different from the "happy scene at the water hole" described in most conventional literature discussing collections of dinosaur track fossils.  It explains many puzzling items of evidence, such as the lack of dinosaur fossils in the vicinity of so many tracks made by so many different dinosaurs (which is mentioned by Utah geology and geophysics professor Marjorie Chan in this National Geographic article about the Arizona dance floor).

It would also explain the piling of sand around the edges of the tracks described by some observers, if moving water was present when the animals were trying to escape.  Perhaps it would even explain the lack of tail drag marks noted at most fossil footprint sites around the world. 

Dr. Brown also points out that in some dinosaur fossil track sites, including the one in northern Arizona, the animals appear to be facing in one direction and moving laterally, as if being pushed by moving water flows while they tried to walk.  This web page from the State Geologist of Arizona contains a photograph of the northern Arizona site along with a drawing which appears to illustrate one set of tracks that might be interpreted as an animal walking while being forced laterally (the State Geologist of Arizona does not make this claim -- that is an interpretation that I am offering for the evidence shown on that particular page).

If Dr. Brown is correct and these tracks were not made under normal conditions (such as dinosaurs happily milling about a watering hole), then the interpretations that are often drawn from them may be incorrect (including the idea that dinosaurs typically held their tails aloft when they were walking).

In any case, the conditions at these two "dinosaur dance floors" (including the seventy-degree vertical angle of the site in Bolivia) appear to be explained quite well by the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown -- better, in fact, than by other competing explanations.