The ichnogenus Psammichnites Torell 1870 includes a wide variety of predominantly horizontal, sinuous to looped, backfilled traces, characterized by a distinctive median dorsal structure. Though commonly preserved in full relief on upper bedding surfaces, some ichnospecies of Psammichnites may be preserved in negative hyporelief. Psammichnites records the feeding activities of a subsurface animal using a siphon-like device. Several ichnogenera reflect this general behavioral pattern, including Plagiogmus Roedel 1929 and the Carboniferous ichnogenera Olivellites Fenton and Fenton 1937a and Aulichnites Fenton and Fenton 1937b. Based on analysis of specimens from the United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom, three Carboniferous ichnospecies of Psammichnites are reviewed in this paper: P. plummeri (Fenton and Fenton, 1937a), P. grumula (Romano and Mele??ndez 1979), and P. implexus (Rindsberg 1994). Psammichnites plummeri is the most common Carboniferous ichnospecies and is characterized by a relatively straight, continuous dorsal ridge/groove, fine transverse ridges, larger size range, and non-looping geometric pattern. It represents a grazing trace of deposit feeders. Psammichnites grumula differs from the other ichnospecies of Psammichnites by having median dorsal holes or protruding mounds. The presence of mounds or holes in P. grumula suggests a siphon that was regularly connected to the sediment-water interface. This ichnospecies is interpreted as produced by a deposit feeder using the siphon for respiration or as a device for a chemosymbiotic strategy. Psammichnites implexus is characterized by its consistently smaller size range, subtle backfill structure, and tendency to scribble. Although displaying similarities with Dictyodora scotica, P. implexus is a very shallow-tier, grazing trace. Changes in behavioral pattern, preservational style, and bedform morphology suggest a complex interplay of ecological and taphonomic controls in Carboniferous tidal-flat Psammichnites. A first distributional pattern consists of guided meandering specimens preserved in ripple troughs, probably reflecting food-searching of buried organic matter concentrated in troughs. A second is recorded by concentration of Psammichnites on ripple crests and slopes. In some cases, the course is almost straight to slightly sinuous and closely follows topographic highs, suggesting a direct control of bedform morphology on trace pattern. Occurrences of Carboniferous Psammichnites most likely represent an opportunistic strategy in marginal-marine settings. Analysis of Carboniferous Psammichnites indicates the presence of a siphon-like device in the producer and reestablishes the possibility of a molluscan tracemaker.
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Carboniferous Psammichnites: Systematic re-evaluation, taphonomy and autecology