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.

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