Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to test the application of a new, low-cost ($2995.00 US), multistripe laser triangulation (MLT) scanner and three-dimensional (3D) software for semiquantitative and quantitative analyses of ichnofossils and modern traces. The goal of this research is to improve on existing analytical techniques and apply new methods to 3D digital models of ichnofossils and modern traces. Objectives are to (1) provide researchers with new ways to develop and test hypotheses quantitatively in the fields of paleoichnology, neoichnology, sedimentology, and soil science, and (2) discuss uses, advantages, and limitations of MLT technology related to ichnology. We scanned and created digital models of a variety of mostly continental ichnofossils and modern terrestrial traces produced by invertebrates and vertebrates. Visual methods applied include making uniformly colored specimen surfaces, stereo pairs, anaglyph stereo images, animations, and cross sections. Quantitative methods applied include measuring distances, tortuosity indices, and angles, and producing contour maps of tracks. Two of the most useful properties measurable from digital models are surface area (SA) and volume (V); these are used rarely in ichnology because they are difficult to measure with traditional methods. We use SA to calculate area exploited and introduce a method of quantifying surface roughness adapted from research on soil surfaces. We measure V of burrows, tracks, and coprolites, as well as introduce a new measure termed “volume exploited.” We hypothesize that different tracemakers make burrows with characteristic V to SA ratios; this is partially supported by statistical tests of previously published data. We also use V to SA ratios to determine relative compactness—a metric adapted from building physics. Digital models ensure perpetuity of specimens because they preserve 3D data that can be used to make physical copies, placed in museums, and disseminated easily to researchers and educational institutions of all levels. Data from digital models can be used to interpret ichnocoenoses, bioturbation rates, and pedogenic properties and processes in soils and paleosols. Note that MLT scanning digitizes only surfaces of objects, so it is best suited for exogenic traces and casts of endogenic traces.

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