An ichnotaxon (plural ichnotaxa) is "a taxon based on the fossilized work of an organism", i.e. the non-human equivalent of an artifact. Ichnotaxa comes from the Greek ίχνος, ichnos meaning track and ταξις, taxis meaning ordering.
Ichnotaxa are names used to identify and distinguish morphologically distinctive ichnofossils, more commonly known as trace fossils. They are assigned genus and species ranks by ichnologists, much like organisms in Linnaean taxonomy. These are known as ichnogenera and ichnospecies, respectively. "Ichnogenus" and "ichnospecies" are commonly abbreviated as "igen." and "isp.". The binomial names of ichnospecies and their genera are to be written in italics.
Most researchers classify trace fossils only as far as the ichnogenus rank, based upon trace fossils that resemble each other in morphology but have subtle differences. Some authors have constructed detailed hierarchies up to ichnosuperclass, recognizing such fine detail as to identify ichnosuperorder and ichnoinfraclass, but such attempts are controversial.
Due to the chaotic nature of trace fossil classification, several ichnogenera hold names normally affiliated with animal body fossils or plant fossils. For example, many ichnogenera are named with the suffix -phycus due to misidentification as algae.
Due to trace fossils' history of being difficult to classify, there have been several attempts to enforce consistency in the naming of ichnotaxa.
In 1961, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature ruled that most trace fossil taxa named after 1930 would be no longer available.
- Definition of 'ichno' at dictionary.com.
- Häntzschel, Walter (1975). Moore, Raymond C. (ed.). Miscellanea: Supplement 1, Trace Fossils and Problematica. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Geological Society of America. ISBN 9780813730271.
- Donovan, Stephen K., ed. (28 March 1994). The Palaeobiology of Trace Fossils. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-94843-8.
- Comments on the draft proposal to amend the Code with respect to trace fossils
- Trace Fossils - Kansas University Catalogue of Ichnotaxa