ICHNOCORNUCOPIA IN THE PENNSYLVANIAN OF ALABAMA
The Union Chapel mine (Westphalian A, Walker County, Alabama) is noteworthy for the abundance and diversity of its ichnofauna. Recognized taxa include trackways and other traces made by vertebrates (Cincosaurus cobbi, Attenosaurus subulensis, Nanopus reidiae, Notalacerta missouriensis, Matthewichnus caudifer, and Undichna ispp.) and by invertebrates (Kouphichnium aspidon, Kouphichnium isp., Diplichnites gouldi, Treptichnus apsorum, and Arenicolites longistriatus). The invertebrate resting traces Arborichnus repetitus and Rusophycus isp. have been found at the site but do not come from the Cincosaurus beds, which are the source of the other trace fossils. The trace fossils are associated with a well preserved and diverse macroscopic flora (30 species have been described), and rare arthropod body fossils (dragonfly wings, spider). Marine body fossils, such as brachiopods, also have been found at the site but not in the Cincosaurus beds. In all, nearly 3000 specimens have been collected and photographed over a period of six years. The Cincosaurus beds were deposited in a nearly freshwater head of an estuary, an ideal setting for interaction of aquatic and terrestrial organisms and for preservation of trace fossils. This deposit is unusual because it is a concentration lagerstatt, in which vast numbers of well-preserved specimens have been and are continuing to be discovered. The diversity and richness of the deposit make it ideal for paleoenvironmental interpretation and statistical analysis of both morphology and behavior of Pennsylvanian estuarine organisms. Two features of the deposit make it particularly valuable. First, the State of Alabama has taken ownership of the site to preserve it for scientific and educational purposes. Second, all specimens have been collected from spoil piles, and the State has committed to turning over the spoil piles on a regular basis so the site will not become "played out." Remarkable new discoveries are still being made six years after exploration of the site began.