Jurassic tetrapod footprint ichnofaunas and ichnofacies of the Western Interior, USA



The Jurassic tetrapod track record of the Western Interior, USA, is one of the most diverse, complete and well-studied in the world, spanning a relatively continuous representation of Lower, Middle and Upper Jurassic formations. Although a few of these formations, notably the Morrison Formation, have yielded abundant body fossils, the majority lack abundant skeletal remains and, while track-rich, are in some cases completely barren of body fossils. Thus, the track record assumes great importance as the most complete and representative record of changing tetrapod faunas through time in a region where the body fossil record is often sparse or absent. In the Lower and Middle Jurassic, many distinctive assemblages are associated with eolian units (Wingate, Navajo and Entrada) that are almost devoid of body fossils. However, the former two units are rich in synapsid tracks characterized as the Brasilichnium ichnofacies. In the Middle Jurassic, fluctuating sea-levels exerted important controls on the distribution of theropod and pterosaur-dominated ichnofaunas associated with coastal plain and marginal marine settings. The Morrison ichnofauna is a reliable reflection of the body fossil record of that formation. Ongoing efforts to group and classify the various tetrapod ichnofaunas into tetrapod ichnofacies and tetrapod biochron categories have, in some cases, provoked stimulating, if sometimes inconclusive, debate.


Jurassic; footprints; ichnofacies; dinosaurs; pterosaurs; Western Interior

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