Friday, January 25, 2013

Dinosaur Dance Floors, Part II (Australia edition)

A big thank-you to Mr. T.R.B. of California for alerting me to this recent news item, regarding a new study analyzing the Lark Quarry dinosaur trackways in Queensland, Australia, first discovered in the 1960s.

The quarry, which contains an amazing 3,300 fossilized dinosaur tracks, has long been interpreted as preserving the record of a stampede of small bipedal dinosaurs fleeing from a large predator dinosaur (perhaps a Tyrannosaur).  However, in an article entitled "Reevaluation of the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Tracksite (Late Albian-Cenomanian Winton Formation, Central-Western Queensland, Australia): No Longer a Stampede?" authors Anthony Romilio, Ryan Tucker, and Steven Salisbury examine evidence that suggests that some of the tracks were actually made by swimming dinosaurs whose claw-marks scraped into the sediment, and based on this and other evidence (such as the possibility that the larger dinosaur's tracks belonged to an herbivore and not a predator), they suggest that the tracksite "may represent part of a riverine setting, where the water was shallow, in which small dinosaurs swam and/or waded," rather than a one-time stampede as has been previously thought.

As Mr. T.R.B. (who sent me the link) insightfully noted, this fascinating and important collection of fossil evidence has strong parallels to other trace fossils of dinosaur tracks found in other parts of the world, such as the "dinosaur dance floors" found in Bolivia (South America) and in northern Arizona (North America) discussed in this previous blog post.

In that post, we saw that explaining the mechanism by which dinosaur tracks would be preserved at all is very difficult for proponents of the conventional "uniformitarian" geological theories, in which most pieces of evidence (including fossils) are explained as the result of gradual changes wrought by forces similar to those operating today (as opposed to the extraordinary or catastrophic events proposed by adherents to what has been termed "catastrophism"):
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.
In fact, preserving any kind of fossils actually is very difficult to explain using uniformitarian mechanisms, and the presence of the fossils on our planet points toward a catastrophic event or events in the past, as discussed in numerous previous posts such as this one and this one.   Trace fossils present other difficulties of their own, such as how they were blanketed with layers of sediment thick enough to preserve them from erosion, but gently enough to preserve them for later discovery.

Further, as pointed out in that previous post (published in August of 2012, before the new theory of Lark Quarry was published), dinosaur track fossils very often appear to have been made in situations of somewhat shallow water.  Tracks often lack "tail drag" marks, leading some paleontologists to conclude that dinosaurs held their tails aloft when they walked, even large dinosaurs with very heavy tails.  Another explanation, however, is that these tracks were made by dinosaurs walking in water, so that their tails did not always drag (although sometimes tail drag marks are in evidence on some of the tracks, though not all, which may suggests a variability to the water level during the event or period in which the tracks were made).

As discussed in that previous post, while adherents of the conventional geological theories often admit they are at a loss to describe in detail what took place to preserve the dinosaur tracks, or describe a mechanism of preservation in very vague terms, the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown provides a very detailed description of what probably took place and how such tracks were formed.  His theory analyzes an enormous amount of geological evidence on our planet (and in our solar system) and explains this evidence in light of the violent events that took place surrounding a catastrophic global flood.  The theory is very comprehensive, as you can see for yourself by reading his book discussing this evidence in light of the theory, which can be purchased in hardback or read online for free on his website.

Discussing dinosaur tracks in particular, Dr. Brown writes:
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.
Intriguingly, this proposed scenario (published long before the latest reevaluation of the Lark Quarry site) very much fits the findings of Anthony Romilio et al. that the smaller dinosaurs that left the tracks in Queensland were partially running and partially swimming.  However, it differs in that Dr. Brown's theory proposes that dinosaur track fossils were made by animals fleeing in terror from the completely extraordinary circumstances surrounding a catastrophic event, rather than by dinosaurs going about their normal routines.  In this case, it would probably be accurate to say that the hydroplate theory supports the "stampede" descriptor, albeit a stampede from terrifying flood conditions, not from a terrifying dinosaur predator.

It is important to note that Dr. Brown's analysis of the events that led to the dinosaur track fossils in various parts of the globe flows very naturally from his proposed mechanism for the flood itself.  In other words, he examined literally hundreds of pieces of geological evidence around the world (from submarine canyons to folded sediment layers to deposits of sediments in Pakistan to the incredible geology of the Grand Canyon) and proposed a theory which would explain this evidence.  The fact that this broad theory does an outstanding job of explaining new developments, such as this new research at the Lark Quarry site, or the discovery of fossil jellyfish in Utah (whose discovery was also published well after Dr. Brown had published his hydroplate theory), is a strong indicator of its validity.

Anthony Romilio, Ryan Tucker, and Steven Salisbury should be commended for their "outside-the-box" thinking regarding the Lark Quarry site, and their willingness to challenge the conventional explanation and examine possible alternative explanations.  Their detailed examination of the evidence, and application of new and innovative technology, has led to some important new information about this incredible collection of trace fossils.  I believe that they and others investigating Lark Quarry should carefully consider the hydroplate theory, which may shed further light on the ancient mystery left to us to decipher, in the tracks of these long-vanished animals.