Nothosaur foraging tracks from the Middle Triassic of southwestern China

Qiyue Zhang, Wen Wen, Shixue Hu, Michael J Benton, Changyong Zhou, Tao Xie, Tao Lü, Jinyuan Huang, Brian Choo, Zhong-Qiang Chen, Jun Liu, Qican Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The seas of the Mesozoic (266-66 Myr ago) were remarkable for predatory marine reptiles, but their modes of locomotion have been debated. One problem has been the absence of tracks, although there is no reason to expect that swimmers would produce tracks. We report here seabed tracks made by Mesozoic marine reptiles, produced by the paddles of nothosaurs (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) in the Middle Triassic of the Luoping localities in Yunnan, southwestern China. These show that the track-making nothosaurs used their forelimbs for propulsion, they generally rowed (both forelimbs operating in unison rather than alternately), and the forelimb entered medially, dug in as the paddle tip gained purchase, and withdrew cleanly. These inferences may provide evidence for swimming modes, or it could be argued that the locomotory modes indicated by the tracks were restricted to such contact propulsion. Such punting behaviour may have been used to flush prey from the bottom muds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3973
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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