Ichnology is the study of plant and animal traces. Implicit to this definition is that the
traces made by plants and animals reflect some sort of behavior.
Ichnology can be divided into two major subdivisions: paleoichnology (the study of
ancient traces) and neoichnology (the study of modern traces). Most ichnologists are
involved in paleoichnology but a considerable number also study neoichnology for the
comparison of modern equivalents (and their trace makers) to ancient traces.
Technically speaking, wildlife biologists or ecologists who study tracking (identification
of animals and their behavior on the basis of their tracks and feces) are neoichnologists.
These images, right & left, are an
example of Paleoichnology.
The Laetoli Walkway, in Tanzania,
Africa, contains 54 hominoid
footprints pointing north along
two parallel tracks. Mary Leakey
considered these footprints her
most important discovery during
six decades of research in East
Radioactive dating places these
footprints at 3.59 to 3.75 million
years old. At the time of their
discovery, the earliest known
hominoid footprints were left by
Neandertals some 80,000 years
Neoichnology would be the science that Sasquatch-Bigfoot Researchers are using to determine the
authenticity of tracks plaster-casted in the 20th & 21st century. Have their been fake tracks? Of course!
The problem is that most people think all of the casts have been faked. There is a real problem with that
assumption. Professionals educated in Ichnolgy have examined many of the cast & have found them to be
absolutely real. Almost every fake cast that has been examined has common traits that pove it to be
fake. Likewise, real casts have common traits that reveal it to be authenic. The comparisons below are real
casts compared to the Ray Wallace fake cast or wooden track maker.
Real tracks, like the one on the left, can only be made by a
living fleshy foot. When it presses down into the medium, it
makes a sequential print. What that means is is that the foot
has dozens of bones, tendons and ligaments that flow in a
segmented fashion. This fluid motion creates what is called
compression lines in the inner perimeter of the track.
Fake tracks, like the one on the right, are identified by what
is called impact ridges that appear on the outer perimeter of
the track. What creates this is the simultaneous pushing out
from the pressing down of a solid, non-flexible structure like
wood or fake plaster cast.
Since a child can tell the difference between an imprint from a
pair of shoes from My custom closet and a bare human foot, it
is easy to teach them the characteristics of real and fake
Dermal ridges are
fingerprints. Hands & feet in
all primates yield these
patterns. The best tracks
have been identified with
these features. The dermals
found on some tracks have
been know to contain
Human finger prints on them
(probably by accident when
the plaster was still setting)
but they are much different
in nature to other dermals
that are twice the size with a
different flow pattern &
texture. Jimmy Chilcutt has
been able to identify the
human from the non-human
through his expertise with
finger printing techniques.
|Fingerprint Expert Tries To Debunk Bigfoot- Reaches Opposite Conclusion
|February 21, 2000 -Copyright Houston Chronicle
|Jimmy Chilcutt is not someone most people would associate with the kind of wild, unsubstantiated stories that show up in
supermarket tabloids. Chilcutt, 54, is skeptical by nature. His job as a fingerprint technician at the Conroe Police Department
requires hard-nosed judgments and painstaking attention to detail.He is highly regarded by agents of the FBI, the Drug
Enforcement Administration, and state and local law enforcement agencies because of his innovative techniques and ability to
find fingerprints where others fail. But in doing what comes naturally -- being careful and thorough -- he ended up rocking his
own skepticism about one of the most sensational tales that routinely show up in the tabloids. Chilcutt's quest to squeeze
more information out of fingerprints led him to develop a rare expertise in nonhuman primate prints. He tried to use his special
knowledge to debunk alleged evidence of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.
But his examination of alleged Bigfoot footprint castings didn't lead to the conclusion he had expected. He now believes that --
while some of them are fakes -- some are the genuine prints of a reclusive animal that has yet to be documented and studied.
The path to Chilcutt's unusual investigation began with an idea he had in 1995. "If I could look at fingerprints and could tell the
sex, gender and race, I'd be way ahead," he recalled. He began examining fingerprints to determine whether there were
differences based on race or sex.
It finally occurred to him that the key to understanding human fingerprints could lie in nonhuman primates. Primates are
members of the order of mammals that includes humans, great apes, monkeys and lemurs. Chilcutt said he hoped to find
primordial characteristics that would unlock hidden information in human fingerprints. First, he had to convince a zoo or a
research center to allow him to take fingerprints. "It was hard to find somebody who would let you fingerprint their monkey," he
said. After being rebuffed about 25 times over three months, he called Ken Glander, director of the Duke University Primate
Center in Durham, N.C. Impressed by Chilcutt's expertise, Glander offered prints from his collection of lemurs. But Chilcutt was
primarily interested in apes, so Glander steered him to the Yerkes Regional Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta.
Kaylee Summerville, occupational health program coordinator at Yerkes, said Chilcutt's request was received with caution.
After checking Chilcutt's credentials, the center arranged for him to take prints of apes at the Atlanta zoo during an annual
medical checkup, while the apes were anesthetized. Since then, Chilcutt has amassed a collection of about 1,000 nonhuman
primate prints. He has 350 prints. He said there are only about four or five researchers working with nonhuman fingerprints.
"All are biologists," Glander said. "We don't have fingerprint expertise." Chilcutt studied the primate prints and discovered
characteristics that distinguish different species and traits within species. He said he has become an expert on primate prints
through long study of his samples, although he is not yet able to decipher human fingerprints. But an opportunity arose in
December 1998 to put his rare knowledge to use. He was at his home in Montgomery reading a book one evening, barely paying
attention to a TV program about Bigfoot. His interest was piqued, however, when he heard the term "dermal ridges," a
reference to fingerprints.
He listened closely as Dr. Jeff Meldrum, associate professor of anatomy at Idaho State University, held a casting of a supposed
Bigfoot footprint and pointed to what appeared to be the loops and whorls of prints. Believing he could determine the
authenticity of the prints, Chilcutt phoned Meldrum, a specialist in primate anatomy and locomotion. "If there is a Sasquatch,
only a handful of people in the world know the difference between a primate and a human print," Chilcutt said. Meldrum said he
was delighted to find someone who could help authenticate his collection of about 100 castings of supposed Bigfoot footprints.
Searching for Bigfoot a skeptical Chilcutt arrived in Pocatello, Idaho, last April and began studying the collection. He first
examined the casting Meldrum had shown on TV and quickly determined it to be a fake. The toeprints were actually human
fingerprints. Meldrum turned him loose on the entire collection. The print ridges on the bottoms of five castings -- which were
taken at different times and locations -- flowed lengthwise along the foot, unlike human prints, which flow from side to side, he
said. "No way do human footprints do that -- never, ever. The skeptic in me had to believe that (all of the prints were from) the
same species of animal," Chilcutt said. "I believe that this is an animal in the Pacific Northwest that we have never documented."
Meldrum, for whom the study of Bigfoot prints is a sideline, believes it's a legitimate, scientific inquiry. "A misconception is often
perpetrated that this should be relegated to the tabloids," he said. "The question is, what made the tracks? They are there; that
is indisputable. It's either a hoax or the track of a living animal. "Officer Chilcutt has brought his expertise to that question. We
will never know for sure until a specimen is collected. Until then, it's unscientific, in my opinion, to dismiss this evidence without
giving it an airing." Glander, who was casually acquainted with Meldrum when Meldrum taught briefly at Duke, said: "Do I believe
in Bigfoot? I don't know, but I think it's one of those things that is interesting and intriguing."
Copyright 2000 Houston Chronicle
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|Recent tracks plaster casted done by a group with National Geographic toward the end of 2004.