Complied by Glen J. Kuban
I've had the priviledge of working on many dinosaur tracksites, especially those in the Paluxy Riverbed near Glen Rose, Texas. Most such tracks were originally made in soft sediment along ancient mud flats or shorelines, then gently buried and gradually turned to rock over geologic time. Finally the prints were reexposed by erosion or human excavators in modern times. Some tracks are so well preserved that it is not hard to imagine the trackmakers having strode by only moments before. Unless cloning dinosaurs becomes a reality, this may be the closest we can come to standing beside a living, breathing dinosaur.
While working on the sites, I enjoy talking with passersby and tourists about the tracks and their history. But many people start out with their own curious ideas, some of which are unintentionally humerous. Names are omitted to protect the embarassed, and no offense is intended. Teachers might have fun asking students to explain what's wrong (or silly) about each of the questions. For more information on dinosaur footprints, please see Overview of Dinosaur Tracking .
Glen J. Kuban
Father to son:
"You know Billy, these dinosaur footprints are hundreds of years old!"
Lady staring at the tracks remarks to her friend:
"I knew dinosaurs were heavy, but I never dreamed they could punch footprints in solid rock like this!"
Frequent comment by tourists noticing a trackway heading into the modern
"Look, that's where they went for a swim." (At least some seem to be serious).
-- Why did they make tracks in this riverbed?
-- How did the tracks survive millions of years in the riverbed, with the water flowing over them?
One of the local workman helping paleontologist Roland Bird during some of his early Paluxy excavations in the late 1930's stared quizically at a trackway that headed into the embankment. When asked what the matter was, he said he could not figure out how the animal got under there.
A common question from tourists:
"Do you think the Indians could have carved them?" (Many hundreds of tracks have been found in the Glen Rose area alone, many found under previously undisturbed rock strata).
A frequent question in the Glen Rose area:
"Where are the human footprints?" (For the answer, see my Paluxy web site
The following appeared in Reader's Digest:
My mother was escorting a group of mountain bus tour. They stopped so she could point out trails of dinosaur footprints in the rock just up the hill. One woman, especially intrigued, said: "I'm surprised that they came this close to the road." -- Richard Bowen.
The following is not a dumb question, but did tickle my funnybone, and is probably my favorite incident with tourists at the tracksites. As I was working on a Paluxy site, a little girly about 7 years old raced ahead of her mother, jumped onto the trackbed, and began dashing around in an utter fit of excitement. As she darted from print to print with mouth agape and eyes as big as saucers, she suddenly stopped to catch her breath and exclaimed, "Wow, this is just like being on another planet!"
Soon she noticed me measuring and photographing the tracks, and asked what I was doing. I replied that I was studying the tracks to see how the dinosarus walked, what kind left the tracks, and things like that. I asked her if she would like to be in a photograph with the tracks that might appear in an article I was writing. As she posed proudly alongside some sauropod tracks almost as large as herself, I don't think my meterstick was wide enough to measure her smile.
Sometimes I think the best thing parents and teachers can do for science education is simply to avoid squashing the natural curiosity and joy of learning that most children are born with.