The nature of this book is indicated by its title: it is an Atlas, with a relatively high number of illustrations (text-figures, maps, plates). It is an annotateci Atlas, because illustrations are supplemented by concise text for each locality where tetrapod ichnofaunas have been found (120), according to information at my disposal.
Why do an ichnological Atlas on Latin America? It is just a cultural and linguistic region. However, Latin America is not an uniform region neither from the geographical, nor from the geotectonical points of view. The point is that Latin America has a great number of tetrapod tracksites, from the Devonian to the Recent in origin, with tracks of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. However, many of them are just locally known. Information on many of these sites has not been published; others have been described in locai journals, practically unknown abroad. Sometimes the discovery of tracksites was issued only in newspapers. Frequently, publications are poorly illustrated. Good photographs are rare, and authors seldom publish drawings and photographs of the same material. I must add that communication is (1994) poor between Latin American paleontologists and their colleagues in other countries. As a result, the vertebrate ichnology of Latin America is almost unknown.
The idea struck me, and took my fancy, that there is room, and even need, for one Atlas of Latin America tetrapod tracksites. There exists neither a synthesis nor a revision of this subject, and on a planetary scale Latin American material is poorly recorded. So I began collecting data and visiting localities. But I must say that I began to collect material before knowing how many tracksites there are in Latin America. If I had known how many years I would need to complete this book, I would never have began at all.
This Atlas is intended to open a window on an almost new world to our colleagues of the Laurasia
and of the other Gondwana continents. It could also spur on Latin American ichnologists, paleontologists and geologists to join their efforts, continue their research in this fascinating field, and to start work in those countries where tetrapod ichnology is not practiced.
For coherence between the study of tossii icnofaunas and palaeogeography, the body of the work and the bulk of the excursuses concern South America. Tracksites of Mexico, Central America and the Antarctic islands of South American influence are organized in Appendix.
There was not intention to present a complete description of all the fossil tracks of Latin America, nor to illustrate all of them. That would be too long and too difficult. The goals were to provide information on all the tracksites known to this author, to furnish general notices on geographic and geologic location, to list more or less completely the trackways and footprints, their history and references. I did not give complete information on sites that are well described in accessables publications; nor on ichnofaunas on which monographs are being prepared. I included also some doubtful notices on tracksites and tracks that I could not visit, and whose existence I could not check.
This synthesis and revision began in November 1974, and lasted almost fifteen years, during which time I visited most of the localities in South and Central America, and examined in the field and/or in collections almost all of the material. Sometimes the slabs were pursued to museums on other continents, where they had been taken. To achieve this purpose, more than eighty expeditions were necessary to three countries of Central America, ten of South America, two of Europe, and one of North America. Information on other localities was available in publications, unpublished reports, field notebooks, unpublished manuscripts and verbal or epistular information from colleagues, travellers, engineers, amateurs, hunters and farmers.
Journeys were achieved by piane, ship, car or bus, but also on horseback, long treks on foot or in unsafe boats. One could write a book on “South American Adventure” on these fifteen years of passion-ridden field work, in which boredom had no place. Instead, the chosen literary genre is quite different: a series of files that present data systematically, following a set pattern, accompained by generai and local maps, and by numerous text-figures and plates.
The book may be much criticized for many reasons, for which the indulgence of the reader, or perhaps I should say, the user, is requested. The book makes almost no attempt at any systematic stratigraphic correlation between trackway sites. This is not a book on Latin American Phanerozoic stratigraphy. The data, especially those on stratigraphy, lithology, palaeoenvironments and dating, have different sources from different times and could not always be updated.
It was not possible, because of the cost, to furnish drawings and/or photographs of all the specimens. Often, drawings and photos are presented in alternate ways. The plates were organized to illustrate mainly unpublished material or specimens that were not illustrated, or were poorly illustrated in earlier papers. However, it is plain that the illustrative documentation is far from complete. The author hopes to give no false, exaggerated, or unfair impression of all that is available for study, of which the plates selectively illustrate a relatively tiny pari.
It would be interesting to give a complete description of the specimens. However, this would lead to an excessively thick publication. This paper at least points to the sources for more complete study.
Brasília, Brazil, May 2, 1989