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28 August 2020 Australia's earliest tetrapod swimming traces from the Hawkesbury Sandstone (Middle Triassic) of the Sydney Basin
Roy M. Farman, Phil R. Bell
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The Hawkesbury Sandstone (Hawkesbury Series, Sydney Basin) on the southeastern coast of New South Wales, Australia, preserves a depauperate but important vertebrate tetrapod body-fossil record from the Early and Middle Triassic. As with many fossil sites around the world, the ichnological record has helped to shed light on the paleoecology of this interval. Herein, we investigate historical reports of a trackway pertaining to a putative short-tailed reptile found at Berowra Creek in the 1940s. Reinvestigation of the surviving track-bearing slabs augmented by archival photographs of the complete trackway, suggests that these impressions, which consist primarily of didactyl tracks (plus less common monodactyl and tridactyl traces), represent the earliest example of a swimming tetrapod found in Australia. Another isolated specimen (possibly from a nearby locality at Annangrove) appears to represent similar didactyl swim traces of a second, larger individual. Although the identities of the trackmakers are unknown, the Berowra Creek individual had an estimated body length of between ∼80 cm (short-coupled) and 1.35 m (long-coupled), and produced the subaqueous trackway while travelling upslope (against the current) on a sandbar within a braided river system of the Hawkesbury Sandstone. These trackways partially resemble amphibian swim traces in the so-called Batrachichnus C Lunichnium continuum, but appear to represent a unique locomotion trace. This reanalysis of the Berowra Creek trackway provides insight into the locomotion of tetrapods of the Triassic Hawkesbury Series, which remains a poorly understood aspect of their life history.

Copyright © 2020, The Paleontological Society
Roy M. Farman and Phil R. Bell "Australia's earliest tetrapod swimming traces from the Hawkesbury Sandstone (Middle Triassic) of the Sydney Basin," Journal of Paleontology 94(5), 966-978, (28 August 2020).
Accepted: 31 March 2020; Published: 28 August 2020

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