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Unveiling trampling history through trackway interferences
and track preservational features: a case study from the Bletterbach gorge (Redagno, Western Dolomites, Italy)

Paolo Citton, Iacopo Nicolosi, Roberto Carluccio, and Umberto Nicosia

Plain Language Abstract

Tetrapod tracks provide data about anatomy and behaviour of extinct animals. These fossils also provide information about substrate properties before, during and after the passage of the trackmakers. A densely trampled slab from the Western Dolomites (Italy) is discussed as a case study to reconstruct the trampling history and the timeline of events recorded on the surface. The study highlights the importance of such analyses in interpreting trackway interferences and styles of footprint preservation.

Resumen en Español

Inferencia de la historia de la formación de rastros de huellas a través de las interferencias entre rastros y las características de preservación de las huellas: un caso investigado de la quebrada Bletterbach (Redagno, Dolomitas Occidentales, Italia)

Se ha estudiado una losa del Pérmico Superior, de la Formación Arenaria di Val Gardena, conteniendo cientos de pistas de diferentes tetrápodos, con el fin de reconstruir la historia de su formación a través de un análisis icnológico estándar y fotogrametría 3D. El análisis de rastros cruzados para determinar los distintos tiempos relativos de producción de los mismos, así como las características de la preservación de las pistas cualitativamente consideradas respecto a las dimensiones de los productores de las mismas, ha dilucidado la naturaleza de la capa bioturbada y el modo de preservación de las pistas, en especial las diferentes condiciones (es decir, la cohesión de los sedimentos) que caracterizaron a la capa bioturbada durante el cruce de los rastros. Por otra parte, el análisis de una línea temporal de eventos sugiere marcadamente que se debe tener precaución en el análisis de interferencias de pistas, sobre todo cuando faltan varias líneas de evidencia. Como consecuencia de ello, la cronología de los eventos puede enmascararse, ser engañosa y ser malinterpretada con evidente repercusión sobre las reconstrucciones generales (por ejemplo, las reconstrucciones paleoecológicas y de comportamiento). Este estudio pone de relieve la fiabilidad de este tipo de análisis en desentrañar la historia preservational de superficies con pisadas; se trata de una herramienta de investigación útil para ser empleada antes que el análisis icnológico tradicional dirigido a la clasificación de rastros de tetrápodos.

Palabras clave: Arenaria di Val Gardena; rastro de huellas; formadores de huellas; sustrato; Pérmico tardío

Traducción: Enrique Peñalver (Sociedad Española de Paleontología)

Résumé en Français

Reconstituer l'histoire de piétinement à travers l'analyse des interférences de pistes et des spécificités de préservation des empreintes : un cas d'étude du canyon de Bletterbach (Redagno, Dolomites occidentales, Italie)

Une dalle du Permien supérieur provenant de la formation Arenaria di Val Gardena et portant des centaines d'empreintes de différents tétrapodes a été étudiée afin de reconstituer l'histoire de piétinement par une analyse ichnologique standard et de la photogrammétrie 3D. L'analyse des pistes se croisant a permis de déterminer la chronologie relative des passages, et les spécificités de préservation des empreintes ont été comparées qualitativement avec les dimensions des animaux à l'origine des pistes. Cela a clarifié la nature de la couche piétinée et le mode de préservation des pistes, en particulier les différentes conditions (c'est-à-dire la cohésion du sédiment) qui ont caractérisé la couche piétinée pendant les passages des animaux. De plus, l'analyse de la chronologie des évènements suggère fortement que les analyses des interférences de pistes devraient être conduites avec une grande prudence, en particulier quand de multiples éléments de preuve manquent. La chronologie des évènements peut ainsi être masquée, erronée, et interprétée de manière incorrecte, avec des répercussions évidentes sur les reconstitutions générales (e.g., paléoécologiques et comportementales). Cette étude souligne la fiabilité de ce type d'analyses pour démêler l'histoire de la préservation des surfaces piétinées et fournit un outil d'investigation utile en amont des analyses ichnologiques traditionnelles dont le but est de classer les empreintes de tétrapodes.

Mots-clés : Arenaria di Val Gardena ; pistes ; animaux à l'origine des pistes ; substrat ; Permien récent

Translator: Antoine Souron

Deutsche Zusammenfassung

Die Ermittlung der Entstehungsgeschichte von Spuren durch Spureninterferenzen und Erhaltungseigenschaften: Eine Fallstudie aus der Bletterbach Schlucht (Redagno, westliche Dolomiten, Italien)

Eine Platte aus der unterpermischen Arenaria di Val Gardena Formation mit hunderten von Spuren verschiedener Tetrapoden wurde untersucht, um die Entstehungsgeschichte mit standartmäßigen ichnologischen Analysen und 3D Photogrammetrie zu rekonstruieren. Durch die Analyse gekreuzter Spuren zur Bestimmung des relativen Timings der Passagen, sowie durch Merkmale die die Erhaltung betreffen und die qualitativ mit den Dimensionen der Verursacher berücksichtigt wurden, konnte die Entstehung der übertrampelten Schicht und die Erhaltungsweise ermittelt werden, und hier besonders die verschiedenen Bedingungen (i.e. die Sediment-Kohäsion) durch die die übertrampelte Schicht während der Aktivitäten der Spurenverursacher charakterisiert wurde. Darüber hinaus legt die Analyse einer Event-Timeline deutlich nahe, dass man bei der Untersuchung von Spureninterferenzen vorsichtig sein sollte, besonders wenn mehrere Beweisstränge fehlen. Folglich könnte die Event-Timeline maskiert, irreführend und fehlinterpretiert sein, mit offensichtlichen Auswirkungen auf die generelle Rekonstruktion (z.B. im paläoökologischen und behavioristischen Bereich). Diese Studie hebt die Zuverlässigkeit dieser Analyseart für das Ermitteln der Preservationsgeschichte von übertrampelten Flächen hervor. Es ist ein nützliches Untersuchungswerkzeug, das eher benutzt werden sollte als die traditionellen ichnologischen Analysen mit denen Tetrapoden-Fußspuren klassifiziert werden.

Schlüsselwörter: Arenaria di Val Gardena; Spuren; Spurenverursacher; Substrat; Spätes Perm

Translator: Eva Gebauer

Arabic

Translator: Ashraf M.T. Elewa

 

 

Three-dimensional interactive model of the slab MPUR NS 34/28 (.stl). Please see for a zipped .stl file.  

 

author cittonPaolo Citton. Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185, Rome, Italy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Paolo Citton started working in the Department of Earth Sciences as an undergraduate at Sapienza University of Rome. He completed his PhD at the same institution in 2014. His research is geared on Permian and Mesozoic footprints (synapsids and dinosaurs trackmakers) from Europe and North America, and it also currently implies the analysis and study of the dynamics of track formation on different types of substrate.

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author nicolosiIacopo Nicolosi. Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Via di Vigna Murata 605, 00143 Roma, Italy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr. Iacopo Nicolosi is currently a research fellow at the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology. After an Earth Science degree at Pisa University (Italy), he completed his PhD in Geophysics at Bologna University (Italy) in 2005. His main research is focused on near surface geophysics and crustal modelling and interpretation of magnetic anomaly measures, especially on volcanic and tectonic environments. In the last years, his research has been focused on application of the structure from motion (SfM) technique (the process of estimating three-dimensional structures from two-dimensional image sequences) to the digital reconstruction of Earth surfaces models, rock outcrops, impact structures, archaeological edifices, excavations and artifacts, dinosaur footprints and tracks and other ichnological structures.

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author carluccioRoberto Carluccio. Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Via di Vigna Murata 605, 00143 Roma, Italy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Roberto Carluccio, Degree in Physics in 1989. Research experience in various research institutes on different topics: nanotechnologies, solid state electronics and semiconductor spectroscopy techniques. From early 2004 on he is part of INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology) Geomagnetism and Aeronomy group, participating to many geophisical airborne and ground based measurements campaigns. Parallel to this activity is the work on software applications development and scientifical data processing: data decoding systems, acquisition and elaboration of geodata from worldwide netwoks, expert systems and AI techniques for knowledge management, events alerts and discrimination, immersive augmented and virtual reality environment development. In latest years works on UAV systems development, remote sensing techniques and photogrammetric 3D surface reconstruction and measurements from digital photo sequences. www.researchgate.net/profile/Roberto_Carluccio.

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author nicosiaUmberto Nicosia. Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, “Sapienza” Università di Roma, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185, Rome, Italy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Umberto Nicosia works as professor of Paleontology at the Department of Earth Sciences and he was the Director of the Paleontological Museum of the Sapienza Universit� di Roma and of the Earth Sciences Department. His scientific activity covers several fields of Mesozoic geology and paleontology. Since 1975 he has been studying Jurassic successions in Italy, Albania, Turkey, England, Germany and France. Its main research field concerns systematics and palaeobiogeography of dinosaurs and of Paleozoic and Mesozoic tetrapod footprints. He is also especially interested in evolution of articulate crinoids. The number of his publications in these topics exceeds 70.

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FIGURE 1. 1, Location map of the Butterloch-Bletterbach area - Redagno; 2, Schematic drawing of the Butterloch-Bletterbach section with the distribution of ichnotaxa; red tracks indicates the stratigraphic level from which the studied footprints came (from Ceoloni et al., 1988, redrawn and slightly modified).

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FIGURE 2. Orthophoto of the slab MPUR NS 34/28. Scale bar is 50 cm.

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FIGURE 3. 1-2, Chelichnus tazelwürmi ; 3, Janusichnus bifrons ; 4, Ganasauripus ladinus. Scale bar is 1 cm. Roman numerals refer to digits.

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FIGURE 4. 1, Ganasauripus ladinus ; 2, Pachypes dolomiticus manus; 3-4, Pachypes dolomiticus pedes. Scale bar is 1 cm ( 1 ) and 5 cm ( 2-4 ). Roman numerals refer to digits.

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FIGURE 5. Event timeline. 1, Ripple marks and Gl1 tracks formation; 2, Gl2 and Gl3 tracks formation; 3; Gl4 trackway formation; 4, Jb trackway formation; 5, Gl5 and Ct1 trackways formation; 6, Ct2 trackway formation; 7, Gl6 and Gl7 trackways formation; 8, Pd trackway formation; 9, Final interpretative drawing of the slab MPUR NS 34/28; 10, Trackmakers advancement directions. rip, ripple marks; Pd, Pachypes dolomiticus trackway; Ct1-Ct2, Chelichnus tazelwürmi trackways; Gl1-Gl7, Ganasauripus ladinus trackways; Jb, Janusichnus bifrons trackway; dcr, ? desiccation cracks. Scale bar is 50 cm.

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FIGURE 6. Slab MPUR NS 34/28. 1, Ripple marks counterprints; 2, Interference between ripple marks counterprints and Gl7 trackway. Scale bar is 5 cm.

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FIGURE 7. Slab MPUR NS 34/28. 1, Swimming traces (indicated by black and white arrows) belonging to trackway Gl1; 2-3, Close-up of the best Gl1 tracks. Scale bar is 5 cm ( 1) and 1 cm ( 2-3).

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FIGURE 8. Slab MPUR NS 34/28. 1, Interference between trackways Gl4 and Pd indicating the relative antecedence of Gl4 trackmaker; 2, Trackway Pd, sets 2 and 3 interfering with Gl2, Gl4, Gl5 and Jb trackways. Scale bar is 5 cm.

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FIGURE 9. 1, Drawing of different parts making up the slab; 2, 3D photogrammetric false coloured model; 3, 3D photogrammetric shaded grey model. Scale bar is 0,5 m.

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FIGURE 10. 1, Trackway Gl6; 2, Close up of the Gl6-Pd interference; 3, Interpretative drawing of Gl6-Pd interference; 4, Orthophoto of trackway Gl6; 5, Shaded grey photogrammetric model of the interference. White arrows and letters a, b and c indicate interruption (a), displacement (b) of the tail trace, and trackway Gl6 last set (c). Scale bar is 5 cm.

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