Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Mitigating the Goldilocks effect: the effects of different substrate models on track formation potential

Falkingham, P L; Hage, J; Baeker, M


P L Falkingham

J Hage

M Baeker


In ichnology, the Goldilocks effect describes a scenario in which a substrate must be ‘just right’ in order for tracks to form—too soft, the animal will be unable to traverse the area, and too firm, the substrate will not deform. Any given substrate can therefore only preserve a range of tracks from those animals which exert an underfoot pressure at approximately the yield strength of the sediment. However, rarely are substrates vertically homogeneous for any great depth, varying either due to heterogeneity across sediment layers, or from mechanical behaviour such as strain hardening. Here, we explore the specificity of the Goldilocks effect in a number of virtual substrates simulated using finite-element analysis. We find that the inclusion of strain hardening into the model increases the potential range of trackmaker sizes somewhat, compared with a simple elastic–perfectly plastic model. The simulation of a vertically heterogeneous, strain hardening substrate showed a much larger range of potential trackmakers than strain hardening alone. We therefore show that the Goldilocks effect is lessened to varying degrees by the inclusion of more realistic soil parameters, though there still remains an upper and lower limit to the size of trackmaker able to traverse the area while leaving footprints.


Falkingham, P. L., Hage, J., & Baeker, M. (2014). Mitigating the Goldilocks effect: the effects of different substrate models on track formation potential. Royal Society Open Science, 1(3), 140225.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 14, 2014
Publication Date Nov 1, 2014
Deposit Date Aug 12, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 12, 2019
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 3
Pages 140225
Public URL


Downloadable Citations