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Digit-only sauropod pes trackways from China (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

A new paper in open access:

Lida Xing, Daqing Li, Peter L. Falkingham, Martin G. Lockley, Michael
J. Benton, Hendrik Klein, Jianping Zhang, Hao Ran, W. Scott Persons IV
& Hui Dai (2016)
Digit-only sauropod pes trackways from China – evidence of swimming or
a preservational phenomenon?
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 21138 (2016)
http: // www.nature.com/articles/srep21138

For more than 70 years unusual sauropod trackways have played a
pivotal role in debates about the swimming ability of sauropods. Most
claims that sauropods could swim have been based on manus-only or
manus-dominated trackways. However none of these incomplete trackways
has been entirely convincing, and most have proved to be taphonomic
artifacts, either undertracks or the result of differential depth of
penetration of manus and pes tracks, but otherwise showed the typical
pattern of normal walking trackways. Here we report an assemblage of
unusual sauropod tracks from the Lower Cretaceous Hekou Group of Gansu
Province, northern China, characterized by the preservation of only
the pes claw traces, that we interpret as having been left by walking,
not buoyant or swimming, individuals. They are interpreted as the
result of animals moving on a soft mud-silt substrate, projecting
their claws deeply to register their traces on an underlying sand
layer where they gained more grip during progression. Other sauropod
walking trackways on the same surface with both pes and manus traces
preserved, were probably left earlier on relatively firm substrates
that predated the deposition of soft mud and silt . Presently, there
is no convincing evidence of swimming sauropods from their trackways,
which is not to say that sauropods did not swim at all.