Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Catch a rising star of ichnology

A sea star makes a trail on a barrier island beach, from the book "Life Traces of the Georgia Coast" by Anthony Martin.

Emory ichnologist Tony Martin drew a standing-room-only crowd on Saturday for his Atlanta Science Tavern talk about tracks, burrows, trails, nests, tooth marks, feces and other signs left by plants and animals. Who wouldn't want to follow an expert on tracks?

Here’s an excerpt from a post Martin wrote about his work for the “Wonders and Marvels” blog:

“In reality, the majority of ichnologists ignore humans, and more often use their observations of modern non-human traces as guides for traveling back in time to interpret the products of behavior from earth history. This is how we can interpret when (and why) a trilobite stopped and changed its direction while burrowing along a Paleozoic seafloor more than 400 million years ago. This is how we figure out what a dinosaur was eating on a given day during the Mesozoic Era, and that dung beetles were living with those dinosaurs, making use of the digested part of that dinosaur’s meal. This is how we identify the size and species of fish that swam along a lake bottom more than 50 million years ago, despite it having left only marks from its fins and mouth. Given nearly 10 million species of modern life-forms and their behaviors to consider, four billion years of life history, and innumerable trace fossils that resulted from that life, why should we waste our time being anthropocentric, or otherwise let ourselves be distracted by just our species in the here and now?”

Martin will give another talk on February 5 at the Decatur Library, where he will also be signing copies of his new book, “Life Traces of the Georgia Coast.” And on February 24, Martin will be the guest lecturer at Andalusia, the Milledgeville farm of Flannery O’Connor.

Lake-bed trails tell ancient fish story
Polar dinosaur tracks open new trail to past
Burrow into a good book on wildlife traces
Insider's guide to Georgia barrier islands

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