Noah s Ravens
496 pages

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How can the tracks of dinosaurs best be interpreted and used to reconstruct them? In many Mesozoic sedimentary rock formations, fossilized footprints of bipedal, three-toed (tridactyl) dinosaurs are preserved in huge numbers, often with few or no skeletons. Such tracks sometimes provide the only clues to the former presence of dinosaurs, but their interpretation can be challenging: How different in size and shape can footprints be and yet have been made by the same kind of dinosaur? How similar can they be and yet have been made by different kinds of dinosaurs? To what extent can tridactyl dinosaur footprints serve as proxies for the biodiversity of their makers?

Profusely illustrated and meticulously researched, Noah's Ravens quantitatively explores a variety of approaches to interpreting the tracks, carefully examining within-species and across-species variability in foot and footprint shape in nonavian dinosaurs and their close living relatives. The results help decipher one of the world's most important assemblages of fossil dinosaur tracks, found in sedimentary rocks deposited in ancient rift valleys of eastern North America. Those often beautifully preserved tracks were among the first studied by paleontologists, and they were initially interpreted as having been made by big birds—one of which was jokingly identified as Noah's legendary raven.


1. Introduction: Noah's Ravens

2. Intraspecific and Interspecific Variability in Pedal Phalangeal and Digital Dimensions and Proportions in Non-Avian Dinosaurs, Birds, and Crocodylians

3. Pedal Shape and Phylogenetic Relationships

4. Toe Tapering Profiles in Non-Avian Dinosaurs and Ground Birds

5. Ontogenetic and Across-Species Trends in Hindfoot and Hindlimb Proportions

6. Intraspecific Variability in Pedal Size and Shape in Alligator mississippiensis

7. Footprints of the Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and Other Ground Birds

8. Summing Up the Comparative Analyses

9. Noah's Ravens: Interpreting the Makers of Tridactyl Dinosaur Footprints of the Newark Supergroup, Early Jurassic, Eastern North America

10. Final Thoughts


Appendix Tables



Publié par
Date de parution 08 octobre 2018
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780253037282
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 9 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1250€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Noah s Ravens

LIFE OF THE PAST James O. Farlow, editor
Interpreting the Makers of Tridactyl Dinosaur Footprints
With Contributions by DAN COROIAN and PHILIP J. CURRIE
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2018 by James O. Farlow
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-02725-2 (hdbk.)
ISBN 978-0-253-03716-9 (web PDF)
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
Introduction: Noah s Ravens
1 Intraspecific and Interspecific Variability in Pedal Phalangeal and Digital Dimensions and Proportions in Non-avian Dinosaurs, Birds, and Crocodylians
2 Pedal Shape and Phylogenetic Relationships
3 Toe-Tapering Profiles in Non-avian Dinosaurs and Ground Birds With Contributions by Dan Coroian
4 Ontogenetic and Across-Species Trends in Hindfoot and Hindlimb Proportions With Contributions by Philip J. Currie
5 Intraspecific Variability in Pedal Size and Shape in Alligator mississippiensis
6 Footprints of the Emu ( Dromaius novaehollandiae ) and Other Ground Birds
7 Summing Up the Comparative Analyses
8 Noah s Ravens: Interpreting the Makers of Tridactyl Dinosaur Footprints of the Newark Supergroup, Early Jurassic, Eastern North America
Final Thoughts
I HAVE BENEFITED OVER THE YEARS FROM THE ASSISTANCE , access to specimens (or data or art), hospitality and/or logistical support, and/or wise counsel of numerous individuals, some of whom are now deceased, but not forgotten. I thank Laura Abraczinskas, Thomas Adams, David and Margaret Akers, Herculano Alvarenga, Don Baird, Billy Paul and Pam Baker, Matteo Belvedere, Mike Brett-Surman, Dan Brinkman, Lisa Buckley, Pierre Bultynck, Ralph Chapman, Sandra Chapman, Luis Chiappe, Walter Coombs, Raymond Coory, Tim Corey, Rodolfo Coria, Nick Czaplewski, Ann Darrow, Ben Dattilo, Kyle Davies, Lisa Davis, Federico Degrange, Carl Denham, Everett and Carolyn Deschner, Sarah Doyle, Jack Driscoll, Ruth Elsey, Annelise Folie, Jed Freels, Georges Gand, Jose Garc a-Ramos, Rob Gaston, Steve Gatesy, Patrick Getty, Whit Gibbons, Gerard Gierli ski, Brian Gill, David Gillette, Tammy Gordon, Tim Hamley, vind Hammer, Amy Henrici, Tom Holtz, Jack Horner, Jim Kirkland, Richard Krueger, Glen Kuban, Cory Kumagai, Wann Langston, Peter Larson, Young-Nam Lee, Giuseppe Leonardi, Martin Lockley, Andy Main, Anthony Maltese, Cliff and Row Manuel, Rich McCrea, Jack McIntosh, Carl Mehling, Christian Meyer, Cliff Miles, Colin Miskelly, Ralph Molnar, George Mustoe, Andrea Oettl, Paul Olsen, John Ostrom, Frank Paladino, Greg Paul, Felix P rez-Lorente, Laura Pi uela, Raymond Pippert, Philip Powell, Emma Rainforth, Alan Resetar, Nathan Robinson, John Ruben, Paul Sereno, Kirby Siber, Boyd Simpson, Jana Sizemore, Matt Smith, Mark Staton, Cub Stephens, Glenn Storrs, Cecilia Succar, Clarence Tennis, Alan Tennyson, Cotter Tharin, Tony Thulborn, Doug Townsend, Kate Wellspring, Jim Whitcraft, Trevor Worthy, Joanna Wright, Yvonne Zubovic, and Kristof Zyskowski. It was a particular pleasure to work with Dan Coroian and Phil Currie on the two chapters of the book that they coauthored. There may be others whose names have slipped from my memory, and if so, I apologize.
I was assisted in my zoo and laboratory work by student research assistants, most notably Jana (McClain) Benson and Kate Shearer. They put up with countless hours of mud, badtempered big birds, and tedious tracing and measurement of footprint shapes.
As will be apparent in the chapters that follow, I owe a great debt to many libraries of biodiversity, the zoos and natural history museums with whose denizens and specimens I have worked. I especially want to thank the staff of the Fort Wayne Children s Zoo, in Indiana, where for several years I routinely collected footprints of emus. I could not have asked for greater cooperation and assistance with my research than I received from Mark Weldon and other zoo personnel.
I am also grateful to a more literal library, specifically the interlibrary loan section at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (now Purdue University Fort Wayne), whose staff helped me track down many an old and/or obscure publication.
This research has been supported by grants from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, American Philosophical Society, Dinosaur Society, Indiana University, Purdue University Fort Wayne (and the late Patricia Farrell in particular), the National Geographic Society, and the National Science Foundation.
Annette Richter and Peter Falkingham read the entire manuscript, rescuing me from an embarrassing number of bloopers and infelicities of expression, and offering many constructive criticisms. I greatly appreciate this service, and hope that their efforts were reasonably painless! Bob Sloan, Alan Bower, Gary Dunham, and Peggy Solic of Indiana University Press assisted at various stages in the development of this book, sometimes forcing changes on me about which I initially grumbled, but later appreciated.
Most of all, I thank my wife, Karen. She has put up with my absences during field work and research trips to countless museums, and occasionally with interesting things temporarily stored in our home freezer. I can express my appreciation for her no better than by quoting an ancient source of wisdom: A woman s beauty lights up a man s face, and there is nothing he desires more. If kindness and humility mark her speech, her husband is more fortunate than other men (Sirach 36: 27-28, New Revised Standard Version).
Noah s Ravens
Introduction: Noah s Ravens
And it happened, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark he had made. And he sent out the raven and it went forth to and fro until the waters should dry up from the earth.
Genesis 8:6-7 (Alter 2004: 46)
About the year 1802, (possibly a year earlier or later,) Mr. Pliny Moody of South Hadley, in Massachusetts, then a boy, turned up with a plough upon his father s farm in that place, a stone, containing in relief five tracks and it was put down as a door-step and the neighbors used facetiously to remark to Mr. Moody, that he must have heavy poultry that could make such tracks on stone. After Mr. Moody (junior) had left home for school or college, Dr. Elihu Dwight of South Hadley purchased this stone, because it contained these tracks. Dr. Dwight used pleasantly to remark to his visitors, that these were probably the tracks of Noah s raven .
Edward Hitchcock (1844: 297; italics in original text)
IN ONE OF THE OLDEST STORIES IN WORLD LITERATURE (Finkel 2014)-possibly based on some real natural disaster in the ancient Near East (cf. Ryan and Pittman 1998; Montgomery 2012)-God or the gods become(s) fed up with humanity, and resolve(s) to wash nearly the lot of them away in a global flood. Fortunately, the hero of the story-variously named Ziusudra, Atrahasis, Utnapishti(m), or, in the most familiar version of the legend, Noah-has found favor with his deity, and is told to build a huge boat to save a remnant of people and animals from the coming watery catastrophe. Once the flood finally begins to ebb, the hero releases a raven, which recognizes the improving weather and takes off for parts unknown, apparently heading west-a bird which turns out to be a highly motivated aeronautical distance traveler.
Because several millennia later, and thousands of miles away, a young farmer in western Massachusetts discovered a sequence of fossil footprints of some three-toed, bipedal animal ( fig. I.1 ). The slab was eventually bought by a neighbor, Dr. Dwight, who wryly joked (see epigraph above) that these were the tracks of none other than Noah s raven.
These and other fossil footmarks of the Connecticut Valley eventually came to the attention of the Reverend Edward Hitchcock, a pioneering American geologist whose landmark studies of what were eventually recognized as non-avian dinosaur tracks launched research on dinosaurs in America more generally (Colbert 1968; Dean 1969; Steinbock 1989; Bakker 2004; Pemberton et al. 2007; Farlow et al. 2012), although Hitchcock thought that his trackmakers had, for the most part, been flightless birds. To honor Dr. Dwight s quip, and to credit that legendary keeper of the world s biggest ocean-going zoo (and thereby acknowledge the importance of zoos for this study), I extend the historic nickname from the maker of a single trackway to the makers of trackways of tridactyl bipedal dinosaurs more generally, and so collectively dub them: Noah s Ravens. (I thank Ben Dattilo for helping me with the idea for doing this.)
About 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, in Somervell County near the little town of Glen Rose, the Paluxy River, a beautiful, free-flowing stream (something of an oddity in a state obsessed with damming such things), makes a hairpin turn to the north, and then back again to the south, in Dinosaur Valley St

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