Abstract

Vertical-to-inclined, cylindrical trace fossils that occur in the Upper Triassic Chinle and Dolores Formations on the Colorado Plateau are interpreted to be the casts of lungfish burrows. The casts, which are as much as 11 cm in diameter and as much as 1.6 m long, were formed by passive silicilastic and carbonate sedimentation into apparently abandoned lungfish burrows. Locally, the burrow fillings are overwhelmingly abundant, and many intersect and have destroyed former burrow fillings. Superposition of bioturbation episodes has obliterated most primary sedimentary structures. This bioturbation has contributed to the mottled coloration and the knobby-weathering texture of the rocks. The burrow-fillings occur ubiquitously in three lithofacies, comprising 1) purple- and white-mottled, silicified sandstone and siltstone, 2) red and brown siltstone and mudstone, and 3) pink and green limestone. These strata were deposited in a continental environment that included fluvial channels and floodplains, sand sheets and playa mudflats, and lacustrine basins, marshes, and deltas. The identification of the trace fossils as the positive casts of lungfish burrows is based on their morphologic similarity to previously identified lungfish burrows and to available hand specimens. The widespread occurrence of the lungfish burrows in the Chinle and Dolores Formations attests to the extensive habitat that supported lungfish in the Late Triassic and to conditions favorable for burrow preservation. Analogy with the environments that support modern lungfish populations suggests that the Late Triassic climate in the study area provided sufficient moisture to support large populations of lungfish and that this climate was probably punctuated by seasonally dry periods.

First Page Preview

First page PDF preview
You do not currently have access to this article.