Abstract

Small coprolite-bearing borings occur in the stem of the filicalean tree fern Itopsidema vancleaveii Daugherty from the Chinle Formation of Late Triassic Age (Carnian Stage) in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. These borings are restricted to parenchyma within the leaf petioles and among the adventitious roots of the root mantle. Although they are not lined by wound tissue, some of the borings in the leaf petioles contain small discontinuous masses of wound-tissue at a few places along some of the walls, indicating that the plant was alive when it was attacked. Coprolites within the borings generally are small (mostly about 40–50 μm in diameter and 85–100 μm in length) and oval in longitudinal section and round to weakly hexagonal in transverse section; they consist of very small particles of unidentifiable plant matter. Although the weakly hexagonal coprolites are similar to those produced by termites but they are an order of magnitude smaller. Furthermore, the borings are much smaller than those produced by known extant termites. It is likely that oribatid mites produced the coprolite-bearing borings and coprolites. This occurrence is significant because it bridges the Late Permian to Early Jurassic gap in the geologic record of endophagous mites and also contributes new data on arthropod activity during the Late Triassic in southwestern North America.

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