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Taphonomy, deposition and pedogenesis in the Upper Triassic dinosaur beds of Trossingen

Abstract

The Upper Norian (Late Triassic) red-beds of the Knollenmergel (Trossingen-Formation) are famous for their richness in prosauropod dinosaurs. Among the most productive localities, the Obere Mühle (Rutschete) at Trossingen (SW Germany) stands out for the large number of skeletons found in the early 20th century and the wide stratigraphic range of finds within a 12-m sequence of monotonous floodplain mudstones. New excavations at the original site have been carried out since 2007, aimed at securing taphonomic, sedimentological and palaeopedological data on the formation of the deposit. Based on the findings of the present and earlier excavations, the following conclusions can be drawn. (1) The Obere Mühle yields at least two different types of vertebrate lagerstaetten: (1) miring deposits, preserving numerous articulated skeletons in “life-like” postures and all stages of subsequent decomposition and (2) more regular sheet flood deposits, producing only a few skeletons (e.g. turtles), which were disarticulated into body parts and single elements, or in bonebeds. (2) The deposits were laid down in numerous successive cycles of sedimentation, interrupted by pedogenic phases. A broad range of pedologic features is recognised, leading to the interpretation of the deposits as paleo-vertisols and aridisols. This indicates a long depositional history for the whole section, interrupted by arid phases in which few vertebrates were preserved and life was probably less rich. (3) The occurrence of vertebrate skeletons correlates with more humid periods and traces of intense vegetation. (4) Weathering played a significant role in some beds of the Trossingen section. The absence of smaller tetrapods could be caused by intense weathering.

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Acknowledgements

Norbert Adorf and Isabell Rosin (SMNS) organised and conducted the field work and prepared the material. Volker Neipp (Heimatmuseum Auberlehaus Trossingen) was an invaluable asset for this project. This work was supported by numerous people in Trossingen: the mayor Dr. Clemens Meyer and the city council, Willi Walter and Thomas Rüdinger (Walter Straßenbau KG), Rita Benzing, Bernd Messner and Achim Hamm. Martina Battenstein, Olav Maass, Christiane Schott, Janina Dynowski and Ulrike Jäger joined the field work. We thank Andreas Matzke and Michael Maisch (Stuttgart) for discussion, help in the field and unpacking and moving a large part of the Seemann collection. Edgar Nitsch (Freiburg) contributed greatly by discussions on pedogenesis and deposition, and Andreas Etzold (Freiburg), Frank Ullmann (Unterrot) and Ben Pabst (Zurich) were helpful in various discussions. We thank the two reviewers, Raymond Rogers and David Eberth, for their most helpful suggestions, as well as Sinje Weber for further help.

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Schoch, R.R., Seegis, D. Taphonomy, deposition and pedogenesis in the Upper Triassic dinosaur beds of Trossingen. Palaeobio Palaeoenv 94, 571–593 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12549-014-0166-8

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Keywords

  • Aridisol
  • Bonebed
  • Fossillagerstätten
  • Miring
  • Vertisol
  • Weathering