Antarctic Science

Earth Sciences

New Avian tracks from the lower to middle Eocene at Fossil Hill, King George Island, Antarctica

Héctor G. Mansillaa1 c1, Silvina De Valaisa2, Wolfgang Stinnesbecka3, Natalia A. Varelaa1 and Marcelo A. Leppea1

a1 Laboratorio de Palaeobiología, Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH), Plaza Muñoz Gamero 1055, Punta Arenas, Chile

a2 CONICET-Instituto de Investigación en Paleobiología y Geología, Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Isidro Lobo y Belgrano, (8332), General Roca, Río Negro, Argentina

a3 Institut für Geowissenschaften, Universität Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 234, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany


Trace fossils are long known to exist in the Fossil Hill Formation (lower to middle Eocene) at Fildes Peninsula, King George Island, Antarctica. During fieldwork in 2009, abundant new avian tracks were recovered, which are analysed here. Three avian ichnotaxa are distinguished. The most common impressions are tridactyls and tetradactyls with slender digit imprints II–IV and a posterior hallux. They are included in the ichnogenus Gruipeda. In addition tridactyl and tetradactyl footprints with short and thick digit impressions are conferred to Uhangrichnus. The third ichnotaxon is a tridactyl impression with broad and short digits assigned to Avipeda. The latter taxon is here documented for the first time from Antarctica. These avian tracks are preserved in volcaniclastic sediments consisting in reddish-brown layers of mudstone intercalated with coarse sandstone. The sequence represents lacustrine environments which seasonally dried and were episodically refilled.

(Received October 06 2011)

(Accepted January 09 2012)

(Online publication May 14 2012)