Show Me the Footmarks, Watson

At right is a left front foot followed by the hind foot of the mysterious Chirotherium, or "hand beast." The tracks were first found in the German town of Hildburghausen. (Hans-Dieter Sues)

The Long, Strange Tale of the Hand Beast Footprints

by Hans-Dieter Sues

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, the legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes observes: “There is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps. Happily, I have laid great stress upon it, and much practice has made it second nature to me.”

Holmes is able to distinguish the separate tracks of two men from the many footmarks of the constables on the scene. He can calculate when the men arrived, and by the length of their stride, can determine their height. He also determines that one man is fashionably dressed “from the small and elegant impression left by his boots.”

Countless crime scene investigators have used footprints to apprehend culprits, but footprints are also a valuable resource for studying ancient animals. In many rock formations, tracks are the only remaining record that paleontologists can find of animals that lived millions of years ago.

We can identify the creatures who made fossil footprints if the imprints are well-preserved. The details in these will often reveal the configuration of the bones in the hands or feet and even show traces of skin on the palms and soles.

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Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

Carol’s Archives 2009-2013
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