Trace Fossil

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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Druckenmiller's team and the park staff also found an enormous dinosaur tracksite they're calling the Coliseum as well as bone fragments, tracks and trace fossils. Druckenmiller also is excavating sites in northern Alaska dating from the same period.
Trilobite and star-like trace fossils from the White-Inyo Mountains, California.
Trace fossils were studied in the field including their morphology, type of hosting and filling sediment, size, orientation, type of wall and spatial interrelations between them.
There are two main types of fossils, body fossils and trace fossils. Body fossils are the preserved remains of a plant or animal's body.
More revealing, and in many places more common, than bones are trace fossils that don't contain any remnants of body parts.
They blasted along a ridge and uncovered Dakota sandstone dotted with dinosaur tracks, or trace fossils. The three-toed footprints, as big as bicycle wheels, were left by Iguanodons.
Trace fossils provide signatures of animal responses to various ecological controls, including salinity and its fluctuations, sedimentation rate, oxygenation, availability of food, and temperature.
The journal Palaeontology is publishing an analysis of the footprints led by Anthony Martin, a paleontologist at Emory University in Atlanta who specializes in trace fossils, which include tracks, burrows and nests.
Trace fossils. Short courses in paleontology, 5, Paleontological Society, Knoxville, Tennessee, pp.
Ichnotaxonomy and ichnostratigraphy of chambered trace fossils attributed to coleopterans, ants and termites.