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Insect traces on dinosaur skeleton from Lower Jurassic of China.



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


A new online paper:

Lida Xing,  Eric M. Roberts, Jerald D. Harris, Murray K. Gingras, Hao
Ran, Jianping Zhang, Xing Xu, Michael E. Burn & Zhiming Dong (2013)
Novel insect traces on a dinosaur skeleton from the Lower Jurassic
Lufeng Formation of China.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (advance online publication)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.07.028
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018213003611

Dense networks of burrow-like traces on the surfaces of bones are
preserved on a partial skeleton of a prosauropod dinosaur (cf.
Yunnanosaurus) from the Lower Jurassic Lufeng Formation in Yunnan,
China. The traces, which gently meander across and, in places,
shallowly excavate the surfaces of several axial and appendicular
skeletal elements (total cumulative length over 29 m) consist of
simple burrows, Y-shaped branches, overlapping intersections, and
chambers. This unusual network is morphologically most similar to
foraging traces of eusocial insects, particularly termites.
Comparisons of known continental ichnofossils, demonstrate the novelty
of this trace, which thus pertains to a new ichnotaxon, Taotieichnus
orientalis ichnogen. et ichnosp. nov. Taotieichnus orientalis most
closely resembles subaerial foraging galleries constructed of mud or
carton (saliva and faecal material mixed with soil or partially
digested wood particles) and produced by a range of subterranean
termites. Periodic, possibly seasonal, use of carrion as a nutrient
source, and the construction of carton foraging galleries over
decomposing vertebrate carcasses, is a known, but little documented,
dietary supplement for some xylophagus, neotropical termite species.
These Early Jurassic traces constitute the earliest evidence of
eusocial insect foraging behavior, and suggest that a possible
adaptive radiation of stem- or crown-group termites as foragers—or, at
least, opportunistic decomposers—of animal carcasses had already
occurred by the Early Jurassic.