ASGP (2018), vol. 88: 111–125


Ausonio RONCHI (1), Giuseppe SANTI (1), Lorenzo MARCHETTI (2), Massimo BERNARDI (3) & Piero GIANOLLA (4)

1) Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e dell’Ambiente, University of Pavia, Italy; e-mails:;
2) Urweltmuseum GEOSKOP/Burg Lichtenberg (Pfalz), Thallichtenberg, Germany; e-mail:
3) MUSE – Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy; e-mail:
4) Dipartimento di Fisica e Scienze della Terra, University of Ferrara, Italy; e-mail:

Ronchi, A., Santi, G., Marchetti, L, Bernardi, M. & Gianolla, R., 2018. First report on swimming trace fossils of fish from the Upper Permian and Lower Triassic of the Dolomites (Italy). Annales Societatis Geologorum Poloniae, 88: 111 – 125.

Abstract: In the Upper Permian continental to marginal-marine succession of the Southern Alps (Dolomites, north Italy), the ichnological record consists of diverse vertebrate footprints and non-diverse invertebrate trace fossils, mainly occurring in the “Bletterbach ichnoassociation” of the Val Gardena Sandstone Formation. After the Permian-Triassic Boundary event, vertebrate ichnoassociations are scarce until the Middle Triassic (Anisian), whereas the uppermost Permian–Lower Triassic Werfen Formation preserves a rich invertebrate trace-fossil record. To date, fish body and trace fossils (Undichna) are very rare in the pre- and post-extinction deposits of the Dolomites; only Undichna gosiutensis Gibert, 2001 was identified in the “Voltago Conglomerate” (Middle Anisian), whereas some unidentified fossil fish casts were found in the Permian Val Gardena Sandstone and some fish remains in the overlying Werfen Formation.
Recently, for the first time, fish trails have been discovered in the Val Gardena Sandstone (Lopingian) and in the Werfen Formation (Campil member, Early Triassic, Smithian). Val Gardena Sandstone yielded Undichna cf. quina Trewin, 2000 and U. bina Anderson, 1976 and these represent the oldest fish trails found in the Southern Alps so far. Conversely, the specimens found in the Werfen Formation can be assigned to Undichna cf. britannica Higgs, 1988. They represent the oldest Mesozoic record of fish trace fossils in northern Italy and one of the few records of Undichna from marine environments. These trace fossils are consistent with the fossil association found in the two formations and reflect fish swimming activity in different environments: in very shallow, calm, brackish distal-floodplain to marginal-marine environments in the Late Permian, in association with abundant and diverse tetrapod tracks, and non-diverse invertebrate trace fossils, and in inter- to subtidal calm, shallow, marine environments in the Early Triassic, together with abundant, but not diverse invertebrate trace fossils.

Manuscript received 21 April 2018, accepted 31 October 2018