Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 May 2021
We report the first Hettangian theropod tracksite (~200 Ma) yielding a rich accumulation of plant remains from the Bleymard Strait (southern France). It constitutes an excellent opportunity to reconstruct lowermost Jurassic ecosystems hosting dinosaurs and which are still poorly documented in this area. Two morphotypes of tridactyl tracks are distinguished. They share similarities with Grallator and Kayentapus. Plant-bearing beds yield abundant leafy axes (Pagiophyllum peregrinum), male cones (Classostrobus sp.), wood (Brachyoxylon sp.) and pollen of conifers (Classopollis classoides). Sedimentological, petrological and mineralogical analyses demonstrated that, in the Dolomitic Formation from Bleymard, the palaeoenvironment progressively evolved from (1) a shoreface to a foreshore domain; to (2) a shallow environment that is restricted or occasionally open to the sea; then to (3) an intertidal to supratidal zone. The Hettangian theropod ecosystem of the Bleymard Strait was composed of tidal flats that were periodically emerged and bordered paralic environments inhabited by a littoral conifer-dominated forest in which Cheirolepidiaceae were the main component. The paucity of the palaeobotanical assemblage, as well as the xerophytic characteristics of Pagiophyllum, show that flora from Bleymard was adapted to withstand intense sunlight and coastal environments exposed to desiccant conditions coupled with salty sea spray, and dry conditions. These features are those of a conifer-dominated flora under a tropical to subtropical climate. The flora as well as the clay mineral analyses suggest contrasting seasons (cyclically dry then humid). This study supports that theropods were abundant and particularly adapted to this type of littoral environment bordering Cheirolepidiaceae-dominated forests.