The oldest Mesozoic nearshore Zoophycos: evidence from the German Triassic



The trace fossil Zoophycos has been described from the Middle Triassic carbonates of the German Basin for the first time. It occurs in a calcilutite bed at the top of a shallowing-upward cycle (parasequence) in the transgressive systems tract of the Middle to Upper Muschelkalk sequence of Thuringia (Germany). Based on sedimentological and palaeontological features, the studied interval is interpreted as deposited in a marine nearshore environment with proximal storm deposits (tempestites). Zoophycos occurs in a very simple planar form with lobate spreiten, which were most likely produced by a worm-like animal by strip mining. The upper tier of the ichnofabric consists of Zoophycos, whereas the lower tier is occupied by cylindrical trace fossils of unknown taxonomic affiliation and with decreasing size towards the bottom. Associated trace fossils such as Rhizocorallium, Balanoglossites and Trypanites indicate a partly firm to hard substrate. No mixed layer is developed at the top of the trace fossil bearing succession. The ichnofabric together with the sedimentological features (disseminated pyrite, blue-grey colour) and palaeontological circumstances (poor benthic fauna, meiofauna with a small body size) support an interpretation of a dysaerobic environment. In the view of evolutionary change, Palaeozoic Zoophycos occurs in both deep and shallow marine deposits, whereas Mesozoic and Cenozoic Zoophycos is only common in shelfal and deeper-marine deposits. The new finding from the shallow-marine Middle Triassic represents the first reliable occurrence of Zoophycos after the end-Permian mass extinction and shows close similarities to its Palaeozoic precursors. It demonstrates that the producer survived the end-Permian mass extinction, became re-established in the nearshore realm and progressively colonized deeper-marine environments during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic.