Identifying an animal’s species from tracks:
Track shape, gait, stride, timing, and location.
Concept Illustrated: The front track of a White-tailed Deer (Family: Cervideae, Species: Odocoileus virginianus) … Walking Pace
The Idea: An illustration of the process a deer foot leaving a track while walking. This illustration is intended as the basis for further refinements of color, content, lighting, and movement.
This clip is relatively brief and simple because it only a first step.
Concept Illustrated: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) front and rear tracks … Side Trot
The Idea: An initial illustration of the process of Red Fox front and rear track formation while moving in a side trot, one of its frequently chosen gaits.
This clip is an evolving attempt so it is gradually being refined. The ‘feet’ used in this simulation are a significant step forwards in terms of closeness to real life.
Each foot object is a one-piece mesh, shape-keyed to deform something like the real foot does as weight is added and removed. The mesh is parented to an armature, and deformations are controlled by weight painting the skin to the bones controlling movement.
The skin of the foot is included in the Rigid Body Physics system. This is worth mention because it means collisions of sand objects with the foot surface as the skin flexes will be controlled by the Rigid Body Physics system.
This area of tracking concepts may need little illustration work. Identifying an animal’s species from tracks is less about processes and more about static characteristics. Though … there are gaits…
Yes, tracks can be used to identify which species an animal belongs to, and sometimes it’s obvious. There are plenty of other instances when it’s hard to decide who that animal was; a mental environment where uncertainty can grow happily, and in a confused tracker’s mind their self-confidence can thin and slow down the whole process of reading the story. Would it help beginning trackers to have illustrations that show them how to make distinctions between species who leave similar tracks? Perhaps, or not.
Foot structures do vary between animal families, yet the same principles of track formation apply across all families because it always follows the same rules of physics. In a similar way, reading the tracks is essentially the same across most animal families, even when there is a very different foot structure. The animal families whose members mostly use just two of the toes on each foot are examples of this. Some examples are goats, deer, horses, wild boars, who have evolved a protective coating over their toes. Hooves flex very little during a step, and at slow paces are usually the only foot structures creating a track. Compared to the human foot, this kind of foot tends to leave a simpler track … at first glance.