Zoophycos size may indicate environmental gradients

Authors

  • EDWARD J. MARINTSCH,

    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, Flushing, New York 11367, U.S.A.
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    • 2

      Department of Earth and Space Sciences, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794, U.S.A.

  • ROBERT M. FINKS

    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, Flushing, New York 11367, U.S.A.
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Abstract

Detailed examination through a continuous stratigraphic interval representing nearly the entire Lower Devonian Onesquethawan Stage shows that the presence and size of the trace fossil Zoophycos varies systematically throughout the unit. The lithofacies of this sequence are interpreted to represent a double offshore-nshore cycle. Both maximum and mean diameters of the Zoophycos web (=spreite) are relatively large within a more offshore setting and become progressively smaller towards both margins of this geographic (= stratigraphic) zone. Close inspection of Zoophycos morphology reveals a nearly perfect correlation (r = 0.96) between Zoophycos web diameter and meniscus height. Meniscus height bears a constant relationship to the maximum body diameter of the animal creating the burrow, consequently, size of the web is directly proportional to body size. Thus the animal is largest near the center of its environmental range and smallest near the margins. Other ichnofossils in the section (Scalarituba, Phycodes, Chondrites), measured on a more limited scale, show similar size variations with smaller forms at the margins of their respective ranges. Therefore, trace fossil size may be a sensitive indicator of paleoenvironmental gradients.

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