Trace Fossil

Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
Related to Trace Fossil: index fossil, Body fossil

trace fossil

[′trās ‚fäs·əl]
A trail, track, or burrow made by an animal and found in ancient sediments such as sandstone, shale, or limestone. Also known as ichnofossil.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Trace Fossil


a manifestation of the vital activity of an extinct organism. Some paleontologists believe that trace fossils include only the traces (ichnolites) left by animals as a result of locomotion on land or the bottom of a body of water, as well as various trails and burrows in loose sediments and rocks and borings into mollusk shells. Others more broadly interpret the concept to include various evidences of the physiological function of organisms. For example, reproduction in ancient animals is studied by the remains of birds’ eggs and fish roe, and nutrition by the remains of gastroliths and by excrements and food in the stomach. Traces of injuries and illnesses and structures inhabited by extinct animals are also called trace fossils.

Trace fossils are found in the deposits of all geological systems, beginning with the Precambrian. They provide clues to the existence in the geological past of organisms of which nothing has been preserved except the trace fossils and give some idea of the way of life of extinct animals. The branch of biology that studies trace fossils in the narrow sense is called ichnology (or palichnology). Assemblages of trace fossils found in deposits are called ichnocoenoses.


Vialov, O. S. “Klassifikatsiia iskopaemykh sledov zhizni.” In Paleontologiia. Moscow, 1972. (Mezhdunarodnyi geologicheskii kongress: XXIVsessiia: Doklady sovetskikh geologov: Problema 7.)
Gekker, R. F. “Sovremennoe sostoianie izucheniia sledov vymerskikh bespozvonochnykh (paleoikhnologiia bespozvonochnykh).” In Voprosy zakonomernostei i form razvitiia organicheskogo mira: Trudy VII sessii Vses. paleontologicheskogo ob-va. Moscow, 1964.
Abel, O. Vorzeitliche Lebensspuren. Jena, 1935.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The interval contains abundant trace fossils such as Skolithos, Cruziana, Cochlichnus, Monomorphichnus, Catenichnus, Thalassinoides, Helminthodoichnites and Planolites.
(1981): Trace fossil assemblages of deep-sea fan deposits, Gurnigel and Schlieren fiysch (Cretaceous-Eocene), Switzerland.
More revealing, and in many places more common, than bones are trace fossils that don't contain any remnants of body parts.
These paleoecological factors control the trace fossil assemblage in estuaries.
Ichnotaxonomy and ichnostratigraphy of chambered trace fossils attributed to coleopterans, ants and termites.
Found in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, this is the first trace fossil evidence of horseshoe crabs in this deposit.
Several investigators (e.g., Hofmann and Patel, 1989; McIloy and Heys, 1997; Mangano et al., 2002; Seilacher, 2007) have helped to clarify the internal structure and taxonomy of the complex morphology of this trace fossil. Nevertheless, partly due to morphologic variability, there has been confusion as to the taxonomy of Psammichnites and other related ichnogenera (e.g., Olivellites, Crossopodia, Plagiomus; see Mangano et al.
The lack of stratigraphic control makes inferring trace fossil associations and establishing ichnofacies difficult, especially since most of the fossil-bearing slabs are small and consequently preserve only a few traces each.