DINOSAUR TRACKS AND DISPUTES (Illustration) Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Archeological Wonders Geography Social Studies STEM Film

The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) tells us about these dinosaur tracks near Hannover, Germany: “The tracks of iguanodontids and theropods are excellently preserved in this quarry in Germany. These trackways were formed 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs walked through mud on the sea or lake shore. We know it was a shoreline because the ripple-like pattern exposed in this picture is just like the patterns formed on modern beaches. Geologists carefully excavated these footprints so that they could learn how big the animals were and how they walked. mage used with permission from: DinosaurHunter.org.”


Pliny Moody was the first person to discover fossilized dinosaur tracks. It was 1802. Those tracks are known today as the Moody Footmark Quarry in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

At the time, people believed the bipedal footprints must have been made by a large bird. Edward Hitchcock, one of the foremost early authorities on the subject, published a book about those and other tracks. (In the end, they turned out to be dinosaur tracks.)

Around 50 years later, also in America, Ferdinand Hayden conducted a geological survey along the Judith River (in what was then the Nebraska Territory). He found some large fossilized teeth belonging to unknown animals. He sent the fossils to Philadelphia where they could be studied by Joseph Leidy, an eminent physician and naturalist.

After he completed his study of those teeth, and other unknown remains, Leidy published his findings. It was the first description of dinosaur remains printed in the United States.

Not long after Leidy published his paper, the study of dinosaurs became an important academic subject. But as rivalry developed between two of his colleagues (Edward Cope and Othniel C. Marsh), Leidy grew tired of the bickering.

Working from incomplete skeletons, scientists did not have all the answers about ancient animal remains. It was easy to make errors as one man tried to outdo the other with each new “discovery.”

The Cope-Marsh antagonism grew significantly after Cope made a huge mistake in reconstructing an Elasmosaurus. He placed the creature’s head on the wrong end of its body and then published his work.

When Marsh pointed out the flaw, Cope was mortified. He tried to buy back all the illustration plates so he could correct his error. (Cope wasn’t totally successful in that endeavor, however, as this link to the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri confirms.)

Rivalries between various groups of dinosaur students (professional and amateur) is not just a thing of the past. The battle over “Sue” (the Field Museum’s T.rex) and who does (and doesn’t) "own" or “know what” about dinosaur fossils are examples of more modern disagreements.

Occasional feuding between dinosaur hunters is as much a part of the world today as it was during Leidy’s time.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2000

Updated Last Revision: Apr 17, 2018

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"DINOSAUR TRACKS AND DISPUTES" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2000. May 26, 2020.
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