A diverse mammal-dominated, footprint assemblage from wetland deposits in the Lower Cretaceous of Maryland
OPEN Scientific reports | 2 Feb 2018
R Stanford, MG Lockley, C Tucker, S Godfrey and SM Stanford
A newly discovered assemblage of predominantly small tracks from the Cretaceous Patuxent Formation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, reveals one of the highest track densities and diversities ever reported (~70 tracks, representing at least eight morphotypes from an area of only ~2 m2). The assemblage is dominated by small mammal tracks including the new ichnotxon Sederipes goddardensis, indicating sitting postures. Small crow-sized theropod trackways, the first from this unit, indicate social trackmakers and suggest slow-paced foraging behavior. Tracks of pterosaurs, and other small vertebrates suggest activity on an organic-rich substrate. Large well-preserved sauropod and nodosaurs tracks indicate the presence of large dinosaurs. The Patuxent Formation together with the recently reported Angolan assemblage comprise the world’s two largest Mesozoic mammal footprint assemblages. The high density of footprint registration at the NASA site indicates special preservational and taphonomic conditions. These include early, penecontemporaneous deposition of siderite in organic rich, reducing wetland settings where even the flesh of body fossils can be mummified. Thus, the track-rich ironstone substrates of the Patuxent Formation, appear to preserve a unique vertebrate ichnofacies, with associated, exceptionally-preserved body fossil remains for which there are currently no other similar examples preserved in the fossil record.
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