You walk down a beautiful beach of a Georgia barrier island and soon notice the broken shell of a clam lying on the sand, still barely alive, and no tracks or other signs near its body. You take a few more steps, and see tiny, pinpoint-like tracks on the beach, making a V-shaped pattern as they run up from the surf and lead to a small, circular hole in the coastal dunes. Nearby, you spot a squiggle that looks as if a child dragged her finger aimlessly through the sand. A stroll through the forest of that same island reveals more enigmas: tracks of many sizes and forms, criss-crossing trails, dig marks, holes in tree trunks, piles of feathers, shallow tunnels, and other such oddities, with nary an animal in sight. The mud of a nearby salt marsh likewise holds many holes, miniature turrets, scratch marks, tracks, droppings, and trails. Amazingly, you later learn that many similar features, called trace fossils, are preserved in the geologic record, providing paleontologists and geologists with comparably intriguing mysteries.
What insights can paleontologists and geologists gain by studying modern traces and comparing these to trace fossils? Life Traces of the Georgia Coast answers that question, opening eyes and minds through the perspective of ichnology, the study of modern and fossil traces made by plants and animals. Integrating facets of biology, ecology, geology, paleontology, and old-fashioned (but time-honored) field observations, Anthony J. Martin demonstrates how ichnology works, using a comprehensive case study of traces and the tracemakers of the Georgia barrier islands. Each chapter begins with a story about traces on a Georgia barrier island, followed by detailed information about how to interpret this unobserved behavior of its plants, insects, worms, snails, clams, reptiles, birds, mammals, and much more. Life Traces of the Georgia Coast also explains how paleontologists, when using modern traces as tools for understanding, can more accurately identify tracemakers and diagnose behaviors from trace fossils. Generously illustrated and written in a lively, approachable style, this book is meant for all enthusiasts of natural history, and its lessons extend far beyond the ecosystems of the modern-day Georgia coast.show more