Abstract

Two major ichnotypes of sauropod trackways have been described: "narrow-gauge," in which both manus and pes prints approach or intersect the trackway midline, and "wide-gauge," in which these prints are well apart from the midline. This gauge disparity could be the result of differences in behavior, body size, or morphology between the respective trackmakers. However, the biomechanics of locomotion in large terrestrial vertebrates suggest that sauropods were probably restricted in locomotor behavior, and the lack of systematic size differences between footprint gauges argues against body-size-related influences. We argue that skeletal morphology is responsible for gauge differences and integrate data from locomotor biomechanics and systematics with the track record to predict the hindlimb morphology of wide-gauge trackmakers. Broader foot stances in large, graviportal animals entail predictable mechanical consequences and hindlimb modifications. These could include outwardly angled femora, offset knee condyles, and a more eccentric femoral midshaft cross-section. A survey of sauropod hindlimb morphology reveals that these features are synapomorphies of titanosaurs, suggesting that they were the makers of wide-gauge trackways. The temporal and geographic distribution of titanosaurs is consistent with this hypothesis because wide-gauge trackways predominate during the Cretaceous and are found worldwide. Additional appendicular synapomorphies of titanosaurs are interpreted in light of identifying these animals as wide-gauge trackmakers. We suggest that titanosaurs may have used a bipedal stance more frequently than did other sauropods. These correlations between ichnology, biomechanics, and systematics imply that titanosaurs were unique among sauropods in having a more varied repertoire of locomotor habits.

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