Thanks to ‘Goldilocks effect’, dinos left footprints at the perfect time

Friday, February 4, 2011

LONDON - A new study has found that thanks to something called a ‘Goldilocks effect,’ dinosaurs left lasting footprints only when conditions were just right.

“By using computer modelling, we were able to recreate the conditions involved when a 30-tonne animal makes a track,” the BBC quoted palaeontologist Dr Peter Falkingham at the University of Manchester, as saying.

Dubbed the “Goldilocks effect”, scientists say it explains why tracks were left at some sites and not others.

“Now we can use this Goldilocks effect as a baseline for exploring more complicated factors such as the way dinosaurs moved their legs, or what happens to tracks when a mud is drying out,” Falkingham added.

The team simulated up to 20 different dinosaurs and found that the heavier dinosaurs only left lasting tracks in thick, shallow mud.

Only lighter dinosaurs could leave prints in softer mud while larger animals would become stuck and die.

“A skeleton is the remains of a dead animal; the footprints are the remains of a living animal, something made during life. That’s what is absolutely fascinating for me about dinosaur footprints,” Falkingham said.

The research is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.(ANI)

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