Science -- Your Future, Scotland's Future
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Animal Tracks
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Animal Tracks
In this exhibit you learn about the different tracks animals make in the ground.

All animals make different tracks in the ground when they move around. The type of tracks they make depends on the shape of their feet and the way that they walk.

We can work out what animals live in a particular area and what they’ve been doing by looking at their tracks. Tracks can tell us how many animals are about, what their behaviour is like and even if they are injured.

By looking at tracks we can see how fast an animal was moving at the time and if it was carrying anything. We can see how big an area the animal travels over, and where it sleeps. It is also useful to combine information from tracks with other things we might find, such as their droppings or any leftover food.

Most animals are (quite rightly) afraid of humans, so won’t come out when we’re around. Tracks allow us to monitor the behaviour of animals without interfering with their lives. If we do want to watch or film animals directly, tracks will tell us where to go to do that.

We are particularly interested in animals that are endangered. By studying their tracks, we can see if numbers of endangered animals have gone up or down, and we can see if something we have done has caused them to behave differently. Knowing these things can help us to work out ways to protect endangered animals.

We can also study fossils of animal tracks to see how extinct animals, such as dinosaurs, used to behave. Looking at fossilised dinosaur tracks, we can see how they stood, how fast they moved and whether they walked with their front legs on or off the ground. If we combine this with our knowledge of dinosaur skeletons, we can get a full idea of how dinosaurs might have lived and looked.

We can also find footprints of early humans, and see how we evolved. For example we can see at what point in our own evolutionary history we started to walk on two legs.

1 The type of tracks animals make depends on the _________ of their feet and the way they __________.
2 What two other things, as well as tracks, might we find to tell us about animal behaviour?
3 Why do many animals not come out when we’re around?
4 What kind of modern animal tracks are we particularly interested in?
5 What can we use to find out about how dinosaurs used to stand?
6 How do you think we might use tracks to see if an animal is injured?

1 Do your pets make tracks? If you (or your friends) have any pets, take them outside to walk on some soft soil. Look and see what kind of tracks they make. Check that it’s not too cold outside for your animal - if it is fill a tray with soft soil and bring it inside for the animal to walk on.
2 Can you find any wild animal tracks? Go on a nature walk in some woods and look out for animal tracks. Take photos of any tracks you see and, when you get home, look on the internet to find out what they might be. (Try this PDF link.)

When going on a nature walk, make sure you know the area you’ll be walking or take a map, make sure an adult knows where you are, never go by yourself and always take a mobile phone with you.