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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Oct. 9, 2002

KGS Releases New Book on Trace Fossils

LAWRENCE--Fossilized tracks and burrows of prehistoric animals reveal much about the ancient environment when a rock layer was deposited. The tracks and burrows found in rocks in Coffey County, Kansas, are described in a new book from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.

These fossilized tracks and burrows are called trace fossils. This new book focuses on trace fossils found near the town of Waverly in east-central Kansas, in a layer of rock called the Stull Shale Member of the Kanwaka Shale, deposited during the Pennsylvanian Period of geologic history, about 300 million years ago.

By analyzing the traces and studying the rocks, the researchers identified the environment at the time the rocks were deposited as a tidal flat near the equator. Conditions varied from a sand flat to a mud flat to a river channel. At times this environment was extremely good at preserving ripple marks, burrows, tracks, and tubes.

Paleontologists Gabriela Mangano and Luis Buatois (at the Instituto Superior de Correlacion Geologica in Argentina), Ron West (Kansas State University), and Chris Maples (formerly of the Survey, now at Indiana University) collaborated on the book, which identifies many of the trace fossils and discusses the environment and time the fossils were formed. The researchers identified traces of 41 organisms in the rocks, including bivalves, brittle stars, and sea anemones.

"These rocks represent evidence of an eco-system with extreme changes in temperature, salinity and energy of the water," said the authors. "The high quality of the preservation of these traces allows an excellent opportunity to study conditions under which the rocks were deposited, and to understand the importance of these tidal flats in evolutionary terms."

Copies of the book, Ichnology of a Pennsylvanian Equatorial Tidal Flat--The Stull Shale Member at Waverly, Eastern Kansas, are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave. Lawrence, KS 66047 (or call 785-864-3965). Copies are $30, plus $5.00 for shipping and handling. Kansas residents should add 7.3% sales tax.

A short extract from this publication is available.
Story by Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-2106

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach