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Ornithopod-dominated tracksite from Lower Cretaceous Jiaguan Formation of China

Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

T. McCrea, Lisa G. Buckley, Matteo Belvedere, Octávio Mateus, Gerard
D. Gierliński, Laura Piñuela, W. Scott Persons, Fengping Wang, Hao
Ran, Hui Dai & Xianming Xie  (2015)
An Ornithopod-Dominated Tracksite from the Lower Cretaceous Jiaguan
Formation (Barremian–Albian) of Qijiang, South-Central China: New
Discoveries, Ichnotaxonomy, Preservation and Palaeoecology.
PLoS ONE 10(10): e0141059.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141059

The historically-famous Lotus Fortress site, a deep
1.5–3.0-meter-high, 200-meter-long horizonal notch high up in
near-vertical sandstone cliffs comprising the Cretaceous Jiaguan
Formation, has been known since the 13th Century as an impregnable
defensive position. The site is also extraordinary for having multiple
tetrapod track-bearing levels, of which the lower two form the floor
of part of the notch, and yield very well preserved asseamblages of
ornithopod, bird (avian theropod) and pterosaur tracks. Trackway
counts indicate that ornithopods dominate (69%) accounting for at
least 165 trackmakers, followed by bird (18%), sauropod (10%), and
pterosaur (3%). Previous studies designated Lotus Fortress as the type
locality of Caririchnium lotus and Wupus agilis both of which are
recognized here as valid ichnotaxa. On the basis of multiple parallel
trackways both are interpreted as representing the trackways of
gregarious species. C. lotus is redescribed here in detail and
interpreted to indicate two age cohorts representing subadults that
were sometimes bipedal and larger quadrupedal adults. Two other
previously described dinosaurian ichnospecies, are here reinterpreted
as underprints and considered nomina dubia. Like a growing number of
significant tetrapod tracksites in China the Lotus Fortress site
reveals new information about the composition of tetrapod faunas from
formations in which the skeletal record is sparse. In particular, the
site shows the relatively high abundance of Caririchium in a region
where saurischian ichnofaunas are often dominant. It is also the only
site known to have yielded Wupus agilis. In combination with
information from other tracksites from the Jiaguan formation and other
Cretaceous formations in the region, the track record is proving
increasingly impotant as a major source of information on the
vertebrate faunas of the region. The Lotus Fortress site has been
developed as a spectacular, geologically-, paleontologically- and a
culturally-significant destination within Qijiang National Geological