Trace Fossils

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Edited by 2 users.
Last edit: 18:43, 3 February 2011

While body fossils are preserved remains of actual anatomical parts of organisms, trace fossils provide evidence of behavioral patterns and ecological interactions of organisms that have entered the lithological record through fossilization.  For example, these remains reveal locomotive, temporary resting marks, dwelling and feeding habits, and the evidence of these are found in fossilized tracks, trails, burrows, borings and imprints.

Ichnology, the study of trace fossils, has broken down trace fossils into several categories according to behavioral or ecological function. 

Trace fossil typology[edit]

Ichnologists have catalogued trace fossils by activity1:

  • Domichnia -- dwelling traces
  • Repichnia -- track and trail traces Ticinosuchus or Chirotherium tracks
  • Paschichnia -- grazing traces (which incorporated movement and feeding behaviors simultaneously)
  • Cubichnia -- resting traces
  • Fugichnia -- escape traces
  • Fodinichnia -- feeding traces
  • Agrichnia -- food trapping or growing/farming traces

Other types of trace fossils:

  • Coprolites -- fossilized fecal matter
  • Gastroliths -- stomach stones
1Seilacher, A., 1967, Bathymetry of trace fossils: Marine Geology, v. 5, p. 413-428.[edit]
Jdhutchison (talk)03:20, 31 January 2011
Edited by 2 users.
Last edit: 23:36, 1 February 2011


When past organisms burrowed or bored into soft sediments and those sediments lithified, the result is a Domichnia trace fossil as pictured above. Photo by John Hutchison.
Coprolites allow researchers to see what an organisms diet composed of. This gives a glimpse of the niche the organism held in its ancient ecosystem.
Lpsherrod (talk)07:19, 1 February 2011

Gastroliths are found with the remains of birds and some reptiles, but sometimes naturally occurring smooth stones are mistaken for them because they look so much alike. The Gastroliths are generally found in clumps located near the stomach area of the animal.

Ndwhitten (talk)17:53, 1 February 2011