Abstract

Jurassic-aged strata of Asturias, Spain, contain trace fossils including sauropod, theropod, and ornithopod dinosaur footprints, but their paleoenvironmental context has been relatively unstudied. A coastally exposed continuous section at Playa de Vega shows a clear transition from the marine Middle Jurassic Rodiles Formation to the terrestrial Upper Jurassic Vega Formation. Within the >100 m of Vega Formation stratigraphy that was logged there, four distinct types of paleosols were identified: (1) Entisols, (2) Inceptisols, (3) Vertisols, and (4) composite or cumulative paleosols. The paleosol types and their features indicate a floodplain depositional setting with short stature, shrubby vegetation. Theropod and ornithopod tracks have been identified at the base of the section, indicating that a dinosaurian fauna was present at Playa de Vega during the Jurassic. Results from well-characterized climofunctions based on modern soils and paleosol B horizon chemical composition of the Inceptisols and Vertisols yield mean annual precipitation estimates of 400–980 mm yr−1 and mean annual temperature estimates of 8–15 °C. The presence of Vertisols, with both evidence for shrink-and-swell behavior and dispersed pedogenic carbonate, is consistent with a strongly seasonal precipitation regime. The δ13C analyses of pedogenic carbonates yield values that range from –7.09‰ to –8.88‰ (relative to Vienna Peedee belemnite [VPDB]) and indicate carbon dioxide levels about six times pre-industrial levels, consistent with previous results. The Asturian vertebrate track assemblage is remarkably similar to that of the Morrison Formation (western United States), but it has greater overall richness. The pattern is reversed for body fossils. The reconstructed paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions indicate similar depositional settings in both places, but with a cooler, wetter, more seasonal environment in Asturias. The greater seasonality indicated by the Vega Formation relative to the Morrison Formation may explain the observed differences in richness.

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