This rare ichnofossil (fossil track) comprises eleven imprints in calcareous micrite, dating back to the Maiolica formation (upper jurassic-lower cretaceous), found on mount Conero in the province of Ancona.
This study offers a detailed description of an ancient trackway attributed to the passage of a marine reptile on the ocean floor. What makes this discovery particularly exceptional is that findings of tetrapod ichnofossils on the deep-sea substrate are exceedingly rare. The article delves into the morphology of the trackway, its interpretation, and the potential identification of the creature responsible for the footprints. Drawing on paleontological and stratigraphic evidence, the researchers suggest that the trackmaker might belong to the Plesiosauria clade, specifically Pliosauroidea.
The Maiolica formation, spanning the upper jurassic-lower cretaceous, holds crucial insights into ancient marine life. Located on mount Conero in the province of Ancona, it became the backdrop for a paleontological discovery of significant interest. The ichnofossil stands as a remarkable testament to a marine reptile traversing the ancient ocean floor. This finding is fascinating, especially given the scarcity of such discoveries in deep-sea sedimentary settings.
In their study, Natali and Leonardi meticulously analyze the characteristics of the trackway, including the morphology of the footprints, stride angle, internal and external width of the trackway, and the spacing between the imprints. They also consider the sedimentary context of the discovery area and paleoenvironmental features. The dating of the Maiolica formation, covering the upper jurassic-lower cretaceous, provides a crucial timeframe for interpreting this find.
The trackway, designated Coneroichnus marinus ichnog. et ichnosp. nov., has been attributed to a marine reptile swimming in close proximity to the ocean floor, deforming the surface where the footprints are preserved. This mode of locomotion can be described as "semi-swimming," characterized by an exploratory and propulsive swimming style in contact with the seafloor mud. Based on morphological and environmental evidence, the trackmaker could have been a member of the Plesiosauria clade, particularly Pliosauroidea.
The discovery of Coneroichnus marinus ichnog. et ichnosp. nov. represents a significant contribution to our understanding of the marine fauna that inhabited the ancient sea that once covered the area now known as mount Conero. This finding is exceptionally rare, as the occurrence of tetrapod ichnofossils in deep-sea sedimentary settings is extraordinarily scarce worldwide.
This discovery paves the way for further research into the ancient marine creatures that inhabited the Tethys Sea, offering new insights into the paleoecology of this geological period.