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The archosauriform footprints were spotted at a paleontological site on the Gardetta Plateau within the Western Alps, Italy.

The archosauriform footprints were spotted at a paleontological site on the Gardetta Plateau within the Western Alps, Italy.

The archosauriform footprints were spotted at a paleontological site on the Gardetta Plateau within the Western Alps, Italy.

Most of the specimens are preserved as natural molds on top of a 3-4 cm thick bed of fine sandstone.

They are shallow, but 2 cm deep, but most are cut by small-scale cracks/fissures and strongly weathered.

Detailed view of the GT-1 and GT-2 trackways (highlighted) on the Gardetta Plateau within the Piedmont region of Italy. Image credit: Petti et al., DOI: 10.7717/peer.10522.
Detailed view of the GT-1 and GT-2 trackways (highlighted) on the Gardetta Plateau within the Piedmont region of Italy. Image credit: Petti et al., DOI: 10.7717/peer.10522.

The tracks are preserved on two distinct surfaces, labeled GT-1, and GT-2.

“GT-1 consists of 4 clear and two weakly impressed imprints, arranged during a 2.1 m-long trackway within the lower part of the outcrop, just 2 m above the creek level. Its direction on the steep bedding plane points upwards to the southeast,” said Dr. Marco Romano from the Department of Earth Sciences at the Sapienza University of Rome and colleagues.

“GT-2 is 2.4-m-long, is preserved within the lower part of an equivalent bedding plane, about 2 m above the creek level.”

The paleontologists assigned the tracks to the new ichnospecies, Isochirotherium gardettensis, and interpreted them as produced by a large-bodied, predatory archosauriform, probably erythrosuchid, trackmaker.

They were made approximately 250 million years ago (Early Triassic epoch), soon after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event.

“This new discovery provides further evidence for the presence of archosauriformes at low latitudes during the first Triassic epoch,” the researchers said.

“It supports a model during which the Permian-Triassic mass extinction didn’t completely vacate low-latitude lands from tetrapods that therefore would are ready to deal with the extremely hot temperatures of Pangaea mainland.”

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