MP9:Chapter 8: Experimental Neoichnology of Modern Soil Animals: Keys to Interpreting Continental Tracemakers & Reconstructing Ancient Soil Ecosystems

From Ichnology: Papers From Ichnia III
by D. Hembree, J. Bowen, A. Catena and N. Dzenowski.

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This chapter is from GAC's Miscellaneous Publication 9: "Ichnology: Papers from Ichnia III" editted by Dr. Duncan McIlroy. To purchase the entire book on disc, please see the Miscellaneous Publications section of our bookstore at

Modern soils contain diverse ecosystems that include micro- and macrofauna engaged in behaviour that produce abundant and distinct biogenic structures. Our knowledge of the structures produced by modern continental organisms is limited, however, making the interpretation of continental ichnofossils difficult. This inhibits our understanding of ancient soil ecosystems despite the presence of ichnofossils even in early Paleozoic paleosols. This project studies burrowing scorpions, whip scorpions, millipedes, centipedes, salamanders, and skinks in a laboratory setting. Biogenic structures produced by these animals include subsurface burrows and chambers, soft-sediment deformation structures, as well as surface tracks and trails. The burrows include shafts, ramps, U-, J-, and Y-shaped burrows, helical burrows, and mazeworks. Generally, each species produced three distinct burrow morphologies and similar burrow architectures were made by different taxa. The experimentally produced burrows are compared using nonparametric statistics involving multiple quantitative properties to differentiate the burrows, based on tracemakers, behaviour, and environmental conditions. The results of these experiments provide a vital dataset for assessing the paleoecology of ancient soil ecosystems through the improved interpretation of continental ichnofossil assemblages.

Electronic Download - 19 pages (May 2015)
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