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Header of the workshop Vertebrate Ichnology: Classification, Morphology and 3D Models


Organising committee








PLEASE NOTE: Next edition for this workshop will be held in 2016. If you want to receive information once the registration is open, please subscribe without any obligation by selecting the topic Palaeontology.


Vertebrate Ichnology: Classification, Morphology and 3D Models
This workshop addresses the analysis of vertebrate tracks from a modern point of view. This includes the formation and preservation of tracks in different substrate and environments, the documentation, description and identification of tracks and the state of the art of new three-dimensional techniques to undertake track analyses (laser scan, photogrammetry, computational modelling).

This workshop is not only suitable for (vertebrate) palaeontologists but also for anthropologists / archaeologists, sedimentologists or other natural science researchers that are either interested in recognizing and using tracks in the field, or in learning modern technologies such as 3D photogrammetry with different kinds of (free) software that allow to easily generate 3D models for scientific publications.

The workshop will be interactive and we will have many practical exercises including neoichnological experiments in the field and their documentation through photogrammetry techniques.


Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez instructor at Transmitting Science
Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez
(Universidad de La Rioja, Spain).
Dr. Peter Falkingham instructor at Transmitting Science
Dr. Peter Falkingham
(Royal Veterinary College, United Kingdom, and Brown University, United States of America).
Dr. Daniel Marty instructor at Transmitting Science
Dr. Daniel Marty
(Office de la culture de Porrentruy, Switzerland).

Organising committee:

Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno course coordinator at Transmitting Science
Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno

(Transmitting Science, Spain).
Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez course coordinator at Transmitting Science
Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez
(Universidad de La Rioja, Spain).
Novella Razzolini course coordinator at Transmitting Science 
Novella Razzolini
(Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), Spain).


All participants must bring their own personal laptop.




1st Day: Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez.

1. Introduction.

- Basic principles: Brief history of vertebrate ichnology (Duncan, Hitchcock, Buckland, etc.), what is a track, classification methods (Vialov, Fault, Haubold).

- Ichnotaxobases in vertebrate ichnology: Morphologic features considered as an useful and not variable base in ichnotaxonomy.

- Practical session: Classical study of a cast (2D model): Outline, morphometric and biometric measurements, discussion of data.

- Nomenclature, ichnotaxonomy and ichnological systematic.

2. Track starts with a foot indention: Identifying the track-maker.

- Correlations between track and track-maker: Geographical and temporal coincidences. Phenetic correlation. Synapomorphy-based approach.

- Foot anatomy: Vertebrate foot osteology (shape and function in metapods and phalanges). Reconstruction of vertebrate soft tissues and movement range.


2nd Day: Dr. Peter Falkingham.

3. Track is a foot-sediment interaction.

- The three components of track formation: Anatomy, dynamics and substrate. Determine the final track morphology.

- Reverse engineer of tracks to learn about all three aspects.

4. 3D modelling

- 3D digitization of fossils: Tracks as 3D structures. Three-dimensional photogrammetry techniques associated to substrate, dynamics and anatomy of a footprint. The use of (free) software (Visual SFM) in ichnology.

- Practical session. Photogrammetry of the cast outlined two-dimensionally the first day. Comparison between 2D and 3D track morphologies.

3rd Day: Dr. Daniel Marty.

5. How is a track produced?

- Detailed description of the formation of a track.

- Presentation and full discussion of all the factors that bias a track: Taphonomy, preservation, sedimentology, geography, environment, time averaging.

- Influence and importance of microbial mats in vertebrate ichnology.

- Practical session: This practice is reserved to allow discussion of ichnological, ichnotaxonomical, sedimentological and environmental issues among all participants.


4th Day: Dr. Daniel Marty, Dr. Peter Falkingham and Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez.

6. Neoichnological experiments: Substrate bias in the track morphology.

The group will be lead to a nearby Quarry in which neoichnological experiments will be undertaken, taking into consideration all the issues, biases, principles and considerations explained during classes. Each participant will produce its own tracks and trackways in different substrate consistencies and analyse them through the two and three-dimensional methods learned during the workshop (classic measurements and photogrammetry methodology). Record speed (time taken to travel known distance), measure stride, pace, track length with ruler / tape, record one track from each trackway with photogrammetry to undertake further depth studies and observe shapes variability.


5th Day: Dr. Daniel Marty, Dr. Peter Falkingham and Dr. Ignacio Díaz-Martínez.

7. Evaluating data.

- Generate photogrammetric models of tracks produced in the field using free software (Visual SFM). Comparison using methods from Tuesday.

- Calculate speed following Alexander – how close are the results? Morphological considerations after considering all the data.


  • General Vertebrate Ichnology:

- Sarjeant, WAS (1975) Fossil tracks and impressions of vertebrates. The study of trace fossils. Pages 283-324, in Frey RW ed. Springer, Berlín.

- Lockley MG (1998) The vertebrate track record. Nature, 396: 429-432.

- Lockley MG (1998) Philosophical perspectives on theropod track morphology: blending qualities and quantities in the science of ichnology. Gaia, 15: 279-300.

- Gatesy SM, Middleton KM, Jenkins FA, Shubin NH (1999) Three-dimensional preservation of foot movements in Triassic theropod dinosaurs. Nature, 399: 141-144.

- Carrano MT, Wilson JA (2001) Taxon distributions and the tetrapod track record. Paleobiology, 27: 564-582.

- Lockley MG (2007) A tale of two ichnologies: the different goals and potentials of invertebrate and vertebrate (tetrapod) ichnotaxonomy and how they relate to ichnofacies analysis. Ichnos, 14: 39-57.

- Marty D (2008) Sedimentology, taphonomy, and ichnology of Late Jurassic dinosaur tracks from the Jura carbonate platform (Chevenez-CombeRondetracksite, NW Switzerland): insights into the tidal-flat palaeoenvironment and dinosaur diversity, locomotion, and palaeoecology. GeoFocus, 21: 1-278.


- Leonardi, G (1987) Glosary and Manual of Tetrapod footprint palaeoichnology. Ministerio das Minas e Energia. Departamento nacional de Producao Mineral.

- Thulborn, T (1990) Dinosaur tracks. Chapman and Hall.

- Lockley MG (1991) Tracking Dinosaurs: A new Look at an Ancient World. Cambridge Univ. Press.


  • Classification:

- Hitchcock E (1845) An attempt to name, classify and describe the animals that made the fossil footmarks of New England. American Association of Geologists and Naturalists. Proceedings, 6: 23-25.

- Sarjeant WAS (1990) A name for the trace of an act: approaches to the nomenclature and classification of fossil vertebrate footprints. Dinosaur Systematics. Perspectives and Approaches. Pages 299-307 in Carpenter K y Currie P, eds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

- Demathieu G, Demathieu P (2002) Concerning the erection of ichnogenera and ichnospecies in vertebrate ichnotaxonomy. Ichnos, 9: 117-121.

- Bertling M, Braddy SJ, Bromley RG, Demathieu GR, Genise J, Mikulas R, Nielsen JK, Nielsen KSS, Rindsberg AK, Schlirf M, Uchman A (2006) Names for trace fossils: a uniform approach. Lethaia, 39: 265-286.

- Bertling M (2007) What’s in a name? Nomenclature, systematics, ichnotaxonomy. Trace Fossils: Concepts, Problems, Prospects. Pages 92-109 in Miller III W, ed. Elsevier, Amsterdam.

- Díaz-Martínez I, Hernández JM, GarcíaFernández S, Murelaga X, Pérez-Lorente F (2012) Uvaichnitesriojana: A new crane-like bird ichnotaxon from the lower Miocene of La Rioja (Ebro Basin, Spain). Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 123: 464-470.


  • Environment and Track Morphology:

- Lockley MG (1986) The paleobiological and paleoenvironmental importance of dinosaur footprints. Palaios, 37-47.

- Scrivner PJ, Bottjer DJ (1986) Neogene avian and mammalian tracks from Death Valley National Monument, California: their context, classification, and preservation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 57: 285-331.

- Allen JRL (1997) Subfossil mammalian tracks (Flandrian) in the Severn Estuary, S.W. Britain: mechanics of formation, preservation and distribution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 352: 481-518.

- Milàn J, Bromley RG (2006) True tracks, undertracksand eroded tracks, experimental work with tetrapod tracks in laboratory and field. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 231: 253-264.

- Marty D, Strasser A, Meyer CA (2009) Formation and taphonomy of human footprints in microbial mats of present-day tidal-flat environments: implications for the study of fossil footprints. Ichnos, 16: 127-142.

- Falkingham PL, Bates KT, Margetts L, Manning PL (2011) The ‘Goldilocks’ effect: preservation bias in vertebrate track assemblages. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 8: 1142-1154.


  • Photogrammetry and 3D Models:

- Matthews NA, Noble TA, Breithaupt BH (2006) The application of photogrammetry, remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) to fossil resource management. Bulletin New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 34: 119-131.

- Bates KT, Manning PL, Vila B, Hodgetts D (2008) Three dimensional modelling and analysis of dinosaur trackways. Palaeontology, 51: 999-1010.

- Bates KT, Falkingham PL, Rarity F, Hodgetts D, Purslow A, Manning PL (2010) Application of high-resolution laser scanning and photogrammetric techniques to data acquisition, analysis and interpretation in palaeontology. International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing, and Spatial Information Sciences, 38: 68-73.

- Petruzzelli M, Razzolini N, Francescangeli R (2011) Proposal for an uniform data standard for ichnological 3D tracking and post processing. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia, 117: 521-530.

- Falkingham PL (2012) Acquisition of high resolution 3D models using free, open-source, photogrammetric software. Palaeontologia Electronica, 15: 1-15.

- Castanera D, Vila B, Razzolini NL, Falkingham PL, Canudo JI, Manning PL, Galobart A (2013) Manus track preservation bias as a key factor for assessing trackmarker identity and quadrupedalism in basal ornithopods. PLOS ONE, 8(1): e54177.


For further information contact: courses@transmittingscience.org.


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