The use of the terms trace, mark and structure

Lothar H. Vallon, Andrew K. Rindsberg, Anthony J. Martin


Mark, trace and structure have been in consistently used in ichnology for many years; we wish to clarify the origins and to prescribe correct usage of these terms. The origins of the words are ancient and complex; in the twentieth century they were given clear definitions as ichnologic terms. Seilacher (1953) de fined a mark (German Marke) as a physical (abiogenic) sedimentary structure, as in the common terms sole mark, flute mark, but not bite mark or scratch mark. Trace has been defined many times; we recommend the consensus definition of Bertling et al. (2006) as “a morphologically recurrent structure resulting from the life activity of an individual organism (or homotypic or ganisms) modifying the substrate”; this in cludes dwelling trace, feeding trace, bite trace. Structure, as implied in another consensus paper (Frey, 1973), is a neutral term for geologic patterns resulting from either biogenic or abiogenic processes. Use of the three terms in a clear consistent manner will aid communication both among ichnologists and between ichnologists and their colleagues in other fields.

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