NH Notes: Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina

Fossilized bones of dinosaurs, whales and mammoths get all of the attention but trace fossils provide important evidence for interpreting when and how organisms lived on Earth in the past. Trace fossils are not the fossilized remains of organisms themselves but rather are evidence of the past presence of organisms.  The most recognizable trace fossils are footprints and leaf impressions.  Many people are aware that 10s of thousands of preserved dinosaur footprints have been found but they may not be aware of how common other trace fossils are such as the preserved remains of mammal, insect and other animal borrows.   Below is a picture of the fossilized remains of a large network of borrows formed by a small animal.   The rocks pictured here are the hardened remains of what filled the borrows which was composed of different material than the surrounding rock.  The latter rock eroded more readily leaving these hardened casts of the burrows behind.   Paleontologists are interested in trace fossils such as these because they can often learn as much about the behavior of past life by studying such features as they can by studying the actual remains of the organisms themselves.  See my post on elephant footprints for an example (Preservation of Behavior: Fossilized Elephant Tracks from the Arabian Peninsula).

This is a photograph of a typical borrow complex found in Triassic formations in Argentinia. The scale bar in the pictures is 10 centimeters. Horizontal shafts are labeled

This is a photograph of a typical borrow complex found in Triassic formations in Argentina. The scale bar in the pictures is 10 centimeters. Horizontal shafts are labeled “A” and vertical shafts that continued doen into rock below or would have gone up to the surface are labeled “B”. This is Fig 3 from: Colombi CE, Fernández E, Currie BS, Alcober OA, et al. (2012) Large-Diameter Burrows of the Triassic Ischigualasto Basin, NW Argentina: Paleoecological and Paleoenvironmental Implications. PLoS ONE 7(12): e50662. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050662
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0050662.

Apparently hundreds of fossil burrows of various sizes and shapes  have been found in a Triassic-aged layer of rock in Argentina. These are described in a paper in the open access journal PlosOne last year (see reference below).  There are many additional images of these burrows in that paper.   Below is another figure from that paper showing the geological context of these burrows.   No commentary on this today though if you follow any of my posts you can probably guess what I would probably say.

(A) Generalized stratigraphic section of the Ischigualasto Formation. Red arrows indicate the stratigraphic position of the Morphotype 1 burrow casts identified in the Cancha de Bochas Member, while blue arrows indicate the Morphotype 3 burrow casts. (B) Photograph of typical overbank lithologies in the Cancha de Bochas Member that host the observed large-diameter burrows. This is from the same paper cited in the figure above.

Figure 2 from the same paper cited in the figure above.   The borrows, like those in the figure above, were found in rock layers near the bottom of hills like those seen in this photograph. (A) Generalized stratigraphic section of the Ischigualasto Formation. Red arrows indicate the stratigraphic position of the Morphotype 1 (smaller diameter) burrow casts identified in the Cancha de Bochas Member, while blue arrows indicate the Morphotype 3 (larger diameter) burrow casts. (B) Photograph of typical overbank lithologies in the Cancha de Bochas Member that host the observed large-diameter burrows.

Reference:

Large-Diameter Burrows of the Triassic Ischigualasto Basin, NW Argentina: Paleoecological and Paleoenvironmental Implications  Colombi CE, Fernández E, Currie BS, Alcober OA, Martínez R, et al. (2012) Large-Diameter Burrows of the Triassic Ischigualasto Basin, NW Argentina: Paleoecological and Paleoenvironmental Implications. PLoS ONE 7(12): e50662. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050662

Comments

  1. Let’s see… the burrows are found at six different levels of the Cancha de Bochas Member and the flood geologists consider the Trassic layers to have been deposited during the late flood period, so the tide-like fluctuations of the global flood waters must have allowed newly deposited sediments to be exposed at least six times, long enough for the sediments to dry out at least partially and allow animals to create elaborate burrow networks.

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  2. geochristian says:

    I think the YECs might answer this one with their “It only looks like _________” tactic. Obviously, these structures only look like animal burrows, with horizontal burrows, vertical burrows, and nesting chambers. And the associated root casts and soil structures (peds, cutans, mottles, calcic nodules, etc.) only look like root casts and soil structures.

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  1. […] TETRAPODS — Naturalis Historia has a note about Triassic Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina. In the YEC scenario, these were either formed by very busy terrestrial critters who somehow […]

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