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Les traces de pas d'amphibiens, de dinosaures et autres reptiles du Mesozoïque Français : inventaire et interprétations.
Georges Gand, Georges Demathieu and Christian Montenat
Keywords: Footprints; France; Inventory; Mesozoic; palaeontology; palaeovenvironments; Stratigraphy

doi: 10.18563/pv.35.1-4.1-149

    Since the 19th century, thousands of footprints were observed in the geological series of the French Mesozoic. All are located in the Triassic and Jurassic. After a promising beginning, in France, it is only a few papers which will be published in the first half 20th century, unlike the USA and of others countries of Western Europe. One ought to wait about 1950 for a revival and now they are nearly 200 papers which were devoted to the ichnofossils. The literature abundance and the renewed interest of the naturalists for the palichnologic studies decided to us to write a synthesis work. This one begins with a stratigraphic inventory in which, localisation, age and paleontological contents of about 180 fossiliferous sites are specified. After having pointed out the followed methods, the footprints paleontological interpretation is then approached in detail and the results obtained are replaced in stratigraphy to deduce the fauna evolution during the Mesozoic. So, it appears that Ichnologic data, more varied and rich in the Triassic and Liassic than those relating to the bones, very rare for the considered periods, are very informative. The middle Triassic (Anisian-Ladinian), thus reveals Cotylosauria, Lepidosauria, Crurotarsi with Rauisuchia, Ornithosuchidae, Crocodylia and Dinosauromorpha more the "Prodinosauria": Dinosamiforme whose skeletons are known in Argentina but only in Ladinian. The rather fast domination of Dinosaurs during Norian is also as well shown. The almost exclusive presence of their footprints, up to fifty cm long, in the Lower Hettangian indicates their supremacy in the environments. Footprints characterise not very deep life places located between inter-supratidal limits and often out of water. Sedimentologic and Palaeontologic studies showed that they were great coastal spaces during Middle Triassic, flood-plain with sebkhas while Upper Triassic, and a large !!coastal marsh!! in Grands-Causses during Liassic in which, mainly, fine stromatolithic layers were deposited. During the same periad, bay beaches spread in Vendée. During the Middle Jurassic, they are also brackish to lacustrine environments and recifallagoons in- the Upper Jurassic. Numerous measurements of the footprints and trackways directions showed that the animaIs moved there in weil defined directions, for long periods. They seem due to the palaeotopography of the life environments relatively stable. Also, the discovery of vegetal radicular networks and small footprints far away from the continental borderlands has suggested that the animals continuously lived in these palaeoenvironnements, belonging to large ecosystems, where the sedimentation rate was weak. This explains that thebadies could not fossilize there but only their footprints through the cyanobacterian action in main cases. From the vertical distribution of different ichnospecies, defined with adapted statistical methods, explained in this work, a palichnostratigraphy was established for the Middle Triassic. Although the footprints are also abundant in Hettango-Sinemurian of "Grands-Causses" and the Vendée, it was not possible, up to now, to establish any zonation in this series; Probably because the palichnofauna is too little diversified there, currently reduced to a majority of Theropods II-IV tridactyl traces.

  Article infos

Published in Vol. 35, Fasc. 1-4 (2007)

Les traces de pas de Dinosaures et autres Archosaures du Lias inférieur des grands Causses, Sud de la France
Georges Demathieu, Georges Gand, Jacques Sciau, Pierre Freytet and Jacques Garric
Keywords: Dinosauroid footprints; France; Grands-Causses; Hettangian; ichnostratigraphy; paleoenvironments; Sinemurian; statistical results

doi: 10.18563/pv.31.1-4.1-143

    The Causses" is a near 3400 km2 large plateau located in the south of France. Here the first dinosaur footprints where found in 1935. After this, this area has yielded an ever-increasing number of ichnites now in excess of 500 specimens. These latter, 15 to 50 cm long, tridactyl or tetradactyl footprints of generally biped animals, were discovered at the surface of Hettangian to lower Sinemurian dolomite layers within 4 distinct stratigraphic units. The 35 sites bearing ichnites are located on the plateau margin. For the first time, morphologic characters studied through descriptive statistic methods with the usual parameters and classical Student and Snédecor tests, allowed us, to divide the whole set of biped traces into 6 ichnospecies. Their definitions are further constrained by multivariate statistical results using Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Factor Analysis of correspondances (FAC) and Discriminant Analysis (DA). All have confirmed the morphologic observations. So that now, the following taxa are identified : Grallator variabilis, G. lescurei, G. sauclierensis, G. minusculus, Eubrontes giganteus, Dilophosauripus williamsi, cf. Moraesichnium, Orníthopus fabrei nov ichnosp. The more immediately visible differences relate to the interdigital II-IV divarication and the digit length ratio. To this panel, we must add Batrachopus deweyi and shapes suggesting Trisauropodichnus and/or Anomoepus. Among all ichnite associations described in the lower Liasic, the New England assemblage presents the most affinities with ours. It shows the ichnotaxa Grallator, Dilophosauripus, Eubrontes, Batrachopus without forgetting Ornithopus fabrei nov. ichnosp. which is close to Ornithopus gallinaceus from the Massachusetts and Connecticut basins. On comparing the present early Jurassic ichnofauna of the Causses with the ones of the Middle and Upper Triassic formations of the eastem border of the Massif Central (France), it appears that tridactyl footprints become more and more numerous and large from Triassic to Early Jurassic. In the Causses, these latest are prevalent but in Quercy (France), Poland, Italy, USA, they are also associated with Omithopoda, Thyreophora and Sauropoda ichnites. Footprint areas considered here were generaly under an arid climate. Animals that passed by were heavy and bulky possible Megalosaur trackmakers, and lighter and slender Coelophysids or Ceratosaurs. For all, these areas were pathways as the orientations of the trackways seem point out. The directions followed by these reptiles were without any important variation during the Hettango-Sinemurian stages. These areas were also used from time to time by Crocodilomorpha and may be tetradactyl (I-IV) bipedal avian Theropods. However, the number of such trackways in sites, sometimes substantial, should not lead us to overestimate the trackmakers populations. These last were probably relatively moderately abondant in this inter-supratidal swamp environment. In the Causses, ichnites are connected with former algo-laminated deposits (Algal mats) which were rapidly hardened by means of calcitisation of cyanobacteria. The result has been a moderate depth of footprints; autopodia disturbing only a few cm of the carbonate substrate. Other fossils have been discovered : invertebrates with thin bivalve and gastropod shells, crustaceans tests and plants. These latter suggest the existence of paleomangroves like environments but also continental vegetation periodically overruning the swamp environment during regression/transgression cycles. At these times, wooded parts of it, could become protecting, feeding, resting and nesting places.


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Published in Vol. 31, Fasc. 1-4 (2002)

La palichnofaune de vertébrés tétrapodes du permien supérieur du Bassin de Lodève (Languedoc-France).
Georges Gand, Jacques Garric, Georges Demathieu and Paul Ellenberger
Keywords: Footprints; France; Languedoc; Lodève basin; new ichnotypus; Saxonian; Upper Permian

    Near "la Lieude", in the Lodève basin, more than a thousand of footprints are distributed in a twenty of trackways which amounts to 220 m length. They have been found on calcareous siltstone level in the B site named also "Réserve Naturelle Volontaire". This last is located in the Saxonian summit dated Upper Permian. "La Lieude" tracks are described by using statistical methods then they are compared with others from the world Permian. What allows to distinguish 4 following ichnotaxa: Lunaepes ollierorum nov.ichnosp., Merifontichnus thalerius nov. ichnogen. and nov. ichnosp., Planipes brachydactylus nov.ichnosp. and Brontopus circagiganteus nov. ichnosp. All these traces are attributed with possibility or probability to Therapsida or to Therosauria, except Brontopus circagiganteus nov. ichnosp. that could be due to Caseamorpha. All these animals whose sizes have been estimated between l and 5 m lived probably in a playa environment.The biological and sedimentological data from "la Lieude" footprints levels compared with informations provided by the tracks orientations, suggest the following scenario. Animals coming from the North have crossed a sandy channel bank with plants zones by directing to the South for the majority. Maybe, they were going to the lacustrine part of the playa, close to "la Lieude" footprints that they have just trampled on. 

  Article infos

Published in Vol. 29, Fasc. 1 (2000)