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Marty et al., 2009

Formation and Taphonomy of Human Footprints in Microbial Mats of Present-Day Tidal-flat Environments: Implications for the Study of Fossil Footprints

Marty, D., Strasser, A., Meyer, C. A.
Typearticle in journal


This study concerns the formation, taphonomy, and preservation of human footprints in microbial mats of present-day tidal-flat environments. Due to differences in water content and nature of the microbial mats and the underlying sediment, a wide range of footprint morphologies was produced by the same trackmaker. Most true tracks are subjected to modification due to taphonomic processes, leading to modified true tracks. In addition to formation of biolaminites, microbial mats play a major role in the preservation of footprints on tidal flats. A footprint may be consolidated by desiccation or lithification of the mat, or by ongoing growth of the mat. The latter process may lead to the formation of overtracks. Among consolidated or (partially) lithified footprints found on present-day tidal flats, poorly defined true tracks, modified true tracks, and overtracks were most frequently encountered while unmodified and well-defined true tracks are rather rare. We suggest that modified true tracks and overtracks make up an important percentage of fossil footprints and that they may be as common as undertracks. However, making unambiguous distinctions between poorly defined true tracks, modified true tracks, undertracks, and overtracks in the fossil record will remain a difficult task, which necessitates systematic excavation of footprints combined with careful analysis of the encasing sediment.

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