Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Aquaria-based observations of the ophiuroid Ophiolepis superba and the trackways it produces

Riley C. Morton, Reed A. Myers, Murray K. Gingras and John-Paul Zonneveld
Aquaria-based observations of the ophiuroid Ophiolepis superba and the trackways it produces
Palaios (February 2023) 38 (2): 98-108


An array of trace fossils have been ascribed to brittle-star behaviors including locomotion traces such as Biformites. Brittle-star locomotion has been well described but little work has been done to link modern brittle-star behavior to the trace fossil record. To draw this connection, a brittle star was kept in an aquarium and isolated in a "walking" tank with a fine glass-bead substrate. The animal was left in the walking tank for 30 minutes then the substrate was examined for traces. A digital camera was used to record the animal's movements and to document the resulting traces. Photographs were processed with photogrammetry software to produce digital models in order to acquire high-resolution images. Walking traces were described in detail and two morphologies were identified, which correspond with the 'rowing' and 'reverse-rowing' modes of brittle-star locomotion. Interestingly, traces similar to Biformites were not formed although some Biformites characters are observed. Morphological similarities include elongated lobate depressions and bioglyphs. Trackway dissimilarities include a repeating, paired, symmetrical pattern observed in the lab contrasting with Biformites that is often expressed as a texture of dense and overlapping, or isolated imprints. Another dissimilarity is the expression of bioglyphs in the lab as striae compared to the positive protuberances observed in Biformites. This study illustrates the utility of using actualistic observations to: (1) refine interpretations of locomotory mechanisms, such as rowing and reverse rowing, for a better understanding of walking behavior, and (2) to expand recognition criteria for ophiuroid (and other taxa) tracks in the fossil record.

ISSN: 0883-1351
EISSN: 1938-5323
Serial Title: Palaios
Serial Volume: 38
Serial Issue: 2
Title: Aquaria-based observations of the ophiuroid Ophiolepis superba and the trackways it produces
Affiliation: University of Alberta, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Pages: 98-108
Published: 202302
Text Language: English
Publisher: Society for Sedimentary Geology, Tulsa, OK, United States
References: 55
Accession Number: 2023-018766
Categories: Invertebrate paleontology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 4 tables
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2023, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), Tulsa, OK, United States
Update Code: 2023
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal