Trace fossils, also called ichnofossils
are geological records of biological activity. Trace fossils may be impressions made on the substrate by an organism: for example, burrows, borings (bioerosion), urolites (erosion caused by evacuation of liquid wastes), footprints and feeding marks, and root cavities. The term in its broadest sense also includes the remains of other organic material produced by an organism — for example coprolites (fossilized droppings) or chemical markers — or sedimentological structures produced by biological means - for example, stromatolites. Trace fossils contrast with body fossils, which are the fossilized remains of parts of organisms' bodies, usually altered by later chemical activity or mineralization.
Sedimentary structures, for example those produced by empty shells rolling along the sea floor, are not produced through the behaviour of an organism and not considered trace fossils.
The study of traces is called ichnology, which is divided into paleoichnology, or the study of trace fossils, and neoichnology, the study of modern traces. This science is challenging, as most traces reflect the behaviour — not the biological affinity — of their makers. As such, trace fossils are categorised into form genera, based upon their appearance and the implied behaviour of their makers.
a dinosaur footprint in the Lower Jurassic Moenave Formation at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, southwestern Utah
|(sea star trace fossil) from the Devonian of northeastern Ohio. It appears at first to be an external mold of the body, but the sediment piled between the rays shows that it is a burrow.|