On Easter, a dedicated ichnologist stalked the barrier islands of Georgia to investigate the tracks left by a flight of Peeps. These sugary creatures lack wings, legs, or any other limbs, yet produce distinctive traces that leave clues as to their behavioural patterns.

Peeps Produce Distinctive Traces of their Motions

Professor Tony Martin at Emory University is a geologist and palaeontologist who specializes in deciphering how tracks can help us piece together a creature's behaviours. His investigation on the habits of peeps starts innocently, with the observation of five distinct-yet-adjacent smooth curving tracks in the sand, before continuing into more exotic traces. At each stage, he applies principles from ichnology — the study of traces — to the absent Peeps, presenting theories as to their lifestyles and habits.

Peeps Produce Distinctive Traces of their Motions

Peep trails in the sand.

For example, a Peep's lack of legs and flat bottoms means that they slide instead of stride, leaving trails instead of trackways during simple forward motion:

As a result, peep trails – which are sometimes sinuous, but always harmonious – consist of five parallel grooves, each spaced equally and separated by six ridges, four on the interior of the trail and one on each side. Lateral movements along the length of a peep trail can vary the height of these ridges, depending on whether the peeps are banking to the right or left as they turn.

Lucky for him, he came across a flock of Peeps near the end of his investigation, allowing him to match observation to theory. I'm not sharing the more complicated traces or peep-photos to avoid spoilers; you really want to read the rest at The Ichnology of Peeps on his blog, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast.

Photography credit: Tony Martin. For more delicious fossils, check out these dinosaur cookies. Have a hatred for the sugary confection? Watch them die in a vacuum.