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Unusual sauropod turning trackway from Early Cretaceous of China

Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Lida Xing, Daniel Marty, Kebai Wang, Martin G. Lockley, Shuqing Chen,
Xing Xu, Yongqing Liu, Hongwei Kuang, Jianping Zhang, Hao Ran & W.
Scott Persons IV (2015)
An unusual sauropod turning trackway from the Early Cretaceous of
Shandong Province, China.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (advance online publication)


An unusual turning sauropod trackway left by small trackmakers from
the Cretaceous China.
This trackway provides important constraints for the reconstruction of
locomotor features.
Two small-sized sauropod trackways are assigned to the Parabrontopodus


An unusual turning and a regular, straight sauropod trackway both left
by small trackmakers, as well as additional isolated medium-sized to
large sauropod tracks are described from the Early Cretaceous Dasheng
Group of the Zhucheng Basin, Shandong Province, China. Based mainly on
well-preserved tracks exhibiting three forwardly-directed digit/claw
impressions and a pronounced heteropody, and to a lesser degree due to
a predominantly narrow to medium trackway gauge, the two small
trackways are assigned to the Parabrontopodus ichnotaxon. As there is
no clear trackway and no well-preserved tracks amongst the
medium-sized to large sauropod tracks, these tracks can only be
identified as of sauropod origin but they cannot be assigned to an
ichnotaxon. The unusual turning trackway is characterized by a highly
variable trackway configuration (pes and manus outward rotation,
gauge, pace, stride) and pattern (different degree of manus
overprinting by pes tracks) along its course, evidently related to the
narrow, semicircular turn to the left that the animal made. This is
also associated with a pronounced change from a narrow–medium (in the
straight part at the beginning) to a (very) wide (within the turn)
gauge. This demonstrates that these two stances could have been used
by one and the same sauropod trackmaker, even if in the present case
associated with turning and not simply during straight progression, as
it was already reported from a Late Jurassic tracksite from NW
Switzerland and an Early Cretaceous tracksite from Spain. Such
‘untypical’ trackways provide important constraints for the
reconstruction of locomotor characteristics of sauropods such as
unsteady locomotion and changes in locomotor behavior, and they will
be of particular interest in the future to model and understand the
different ‘locomotor styles / capabilities’ sauropods were engaged in.