According to a new report, the radar helped researchers study fossilized traces of humans and mammoths. With its help, scientists found out that the gait of mammoths and modern savannah elephants was similar, and were able to estimate the size of the extinct animal. They also determined in which directions and in what sequence people and the mammoth walked.
The fossilized traces (ichnofossils) of ancient people or animals come across to archaeologists and palaeontologists quite often and serve as a valuable source of information. They confirm that this or that species lived in the area, allow to study the anatomy of the lower limbs and the mechanics of the body, as well as the interaction between it and others ecosystem dwellers, for example, between predator and victim.
In recent years, researchers have often described fossilized footprints and more and more studies of ichnofossils are conducted using non-invasive methods. For example, British and American researchers led by Thomas M. Urban from Cornell University used a magnetometer to study the chain of fossilized traces of mammoths. Scientists have found them in White Sands National Park in the southern United States, which is a dune made of plaster. In addition to traces of mammoths (apparently, they were Colombian mammoths), there are preserved ichnofossils of giant sloths, which hunted ancient people, predatory and herbivores Animals. They were left at the end of the last glaciation, which ended about 11.7 thousand years ago. Tens of thousands of traces found in White Sands allow us to study the interactions of animals between themselves and with ancient people. However, researchers can only see part of the traces and that is not always. Even traces visible to the naked eye can fill the drifting sands.
Therefore, in their new study, scientists used radar for the first time to study fossilized traces. They wanted to make sure that the radar could basically find traces and understand who they belonged to. The authors also wanted to explore the surface under the footprints of large animals. Scientists analyzed two places, one of which preserved traces of ancient people, on the other – traces of people and mammoths.
In order to recognize traces and determine their shape, scientists used radar and it helped to all the tracks of the mammoth and human. With the help of radar, scientists also examined the parameters of the tracks and found that the gait of the Colombian mammoths and modern savannah elephants living in Africa were similar. In the traces of both animals, scientists found helical depressions, which showed that they had the same distribution of severity when walking. In the wake of the mammoth, the authors estimated the size of the animal itself – it was an adult male (possibly older than 50 years) with a shoulder height of more than three meters.
Using radar, the authors determined the sequence of movements of people and mammoths. First, the man went north, and after a while, the mammoth went west and stepped on one of the tracks left by the man. After that, a man went south (a chain of traces went parallel to the first) and stepped on the trail of a mammoth. In addition, scientists found traces of another animal at this site and later determined that it was a giant sloth.
According to the authors, using the radar, one can study the biomechanics of extinct animals without worrying about fragile petrified traces. In the future, scientists plan to explore the tracks of dinosaurs in the same way in order to find out the distribution of the severity of these animals and understand how they moved.