Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:20 AM
TRACE FOSSILS OF THE COPPER CANYON FORMATION, DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA, USA: THE MOST ABUNDANT AND DIVERSE ASSEMBLAGE OF FOSSIL MAMMAL AND BIRD TRACKS IN NORTH AMERICA AND POSSIBLY THE WORLD
Death Valley National Park preserves one of the richest and most diverse Cenozoic vertebrate trace fossil assemblages in North America. Thirty-six ichnospecies of cat, camel, horse, mastodon, and bird tracks have been identified from the lacustrine facies of the Copper Canyon Formation, Death Valley. These tracks are significant because they represent a diverse fauna of large terrestial mammals, many of which have no body counterparts in the fossil record. By applying geologic dating techniques, systematics, and depositional paleoenvironment reconstructions a formal description of these deposits will be undertaken over the next few years. Previous In Situ (found in their original position of formation) management of these tracks has included: public closure of the site, application of consolidants, a photo-documentation program, and periodic field collection. In 1998 a Global Positioning data acquisition system was utilized to develop a detailed paleontological resource locality map to reinforce the long-term In Situ management strategies of Death Valley. This comprehensive field inventory relocated previously recorded track sites and identified new track sites. Mammal tracks are fairly abundant in terrestial deposits yet there is no set morphological criteria for describing them. Due to the number of tracks and over sixty track site localities known thus far, there is a unique opportunity to study the variations among these tracks and track bearers. There is also the opportunity to set a standard for description of mammal tracks in the fossil record. This will enable the other Park systems in the United States, which contain mammal and bird tracks within their boundaries, to be formally described and can serve as a template for mammal track ichnology worldwide. Fossil vertebrate tracks can be found outside of the boundaries of Death Valley National Park, but the abundance, diversity, and most importantly the quality of preservation of these tracks surpass all the other track localities in North America and perhaps the world. Through In Situ management by means of photo documentation, monitoring, replication, and collecting scientifically important specimens, preservation of these non-renewable resources is possible for future generations.