Fossil Fever: Trace Fossil Marathon

As tribute to the biggest tracing event of our competition, let’s take a look at the fossils that share in the tracing moniker – trace fossils!

Trace fossils, also sometimes called ichnofossils, are not fossilized living beings of times past, but instead fossils of things that shed light on what life might have been like during those times.

There are many different types of trace fossils and each opens a small window into a past life.

Movement traces show how an animal moved along its terrain. These include footprints and track marks impressed into stone. From these we can infer things like – how large the animal’s foot was, where it was traveling, whether it was walking or running, what its gait was like, and whether it travelled alone or in a group.

Fossilized trails and burrows are also considered movement traces. These can show where an animal lived, how it navigated underground, and how it stalked and captured prey! Sometimes these burrows are the only fossil evidence we have that certain organisms existed.

Another fun type of trace fossil is the coprolite, or ancient fossilized poop! Fossilized dung can reveal a lot about and animal, including the shape of their digestive tract, whether they were a herbivore or carnivore, whether they swallowed foot whole, and what their diet consisted of.

Feeding traces also indicate types of animal feeding behavior. These can include bite marks in plant fossils, predatory bore holes in shell fossils, and teeth inclusions on body fossils or even coprolites!

Other trace fossils can include gastroliths (gizzard stones), nests, eggshells, and skin impressions left by animals walking or resting. So many traces, so much to uncover about the world that came before us!

Now it’s your turn to leave your trace! Starting at 10:00 AM ET on 5/25, you will have 24 hours to complete one or more cells. Bonus & cell renaming information can be found in your in-game notifications.

Swag: Anyone in the top 25% of participants will be entered into a raffle, for which the five prizes include a wall clock, a pillow (new for this year!), and three sticker/magnet sets.

Image Source: Natural History Museum/Wikipedia – Greg Willis