Rock Cycle - Past Life (1B)
Post Lab 

  • Analyzing footprints to derive information.
  • Comparing how dinosaurs moved.
  • dinosaurs
  • footprints
  • impression
  • tracks
  • worksheet
  • crayons

Students try to analyze data from lab.

Dinosaur footprints preserved in sandstone


Paleontologists recognize two basic categories of fossils: body fossils and trace fossils. Body fossils are pieces or impressions of an ancient plant or animal. Bones, leaves, feathers, eggs, scales, and shells are all body fossils. From these we can learn about the physical appearance of the fossil organism. Trace fossils are remnants of the activities of ancient animals. Examples of trace fossils include nests, burrows, trails, footprint track ways, coprolites (fossil dung), and gastroliths (stomach stones). Trace fossils yield unique information about behavior that is not revealed by body fossils.

Study of dinosaur footprints and track ways has contributed significantly to our understanding of dinosaur behavior. From track way sites we have learned that some types of dinosaurs traveled in herds, that some herds protected their young by keeping them in the centers of migrating groups, and that dinosaurs did not drag their tails when they walked (reptiles drag their tails). Paleontologists can also estimate dinosaur gait and speed from some footprint track ways. They can even identify specific behaviors such as hunting, fleeing, or protecting young from others.

All children have seen footprints and tracks, but they may not realize how much you can learn from them. In this postlab exercise, the students will try to use their knowledge from the previous lab to interpret tracks.

  1. Students have now looked at footprints and footprint patterns. This activity reviews their results from the previous two activities.

    Ask the students what type of footprint patterns they observed when they made footprints during the lab. First, go over the pattern made if the dinosaur was walking. Have one or two students come to the board and draw this walking pattern. Do the same for a walking 2-legged dinosaur with a tail and 4 legged dinosaur running. The correct patterns are shown below. You wish to demonstrate this with your students by actually walking or running. Remember a four legged animal walking and a four legged animal running are very different. If your students have trouble visualizing the patterns, use some analogies a cat or a dog walking and then running.

  2. Have students suggest types of information about dinosaurs (or any animal) we could get from studying footprints, based on their experience making tracks outside. Put a list of the things that they suggest on the board. Your list might include: size of the animal, weight of the animal, number of feet the animal walked on, age of the animal, or number of animals traveling together.
  3. Have the students examine the tracks labeled A, B, and C in their worksheet. They are on the following page in this manual. Explain that these are drawings of real dinosaur tracks. Based on the shape and pattern of the tracks and track ways have students answer the following questions:
    1. Which tracks were made by a dinosaur with large claws? (Track way C)
    2. Which tracks were made by a dinosaur that walked on four legs? (Track way A)
    3. Which tracks show a mother and youngster walking together? (Track way B)


4 legged

2 legged

4 legged





with tail (walking)


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