Zoophycos composite ichnofabrics (ZCI) comprising two or more suites of the same form of Zoophycos are widespread and densely distributed in Early and Middle Permian (Cisuralian-Guadalupian) neritic limestones (Qixia and Maokou Formations) of palaeotropical origin in the Laibin area, Guangxi, South China. Similar ZCI also occur in neritic greywackes of glaciomarine origin from the Middle Permian (Guadalupian) Westley Park Sandstone Member (Broughton Formation) in the southern Sydney Basin, south-eastern Australia. Zoophycos from both regions consists of planar spreite with major and minor lamellae and a cylindrical tunnel interpreted as a marginal tube and/or axial shaft. The cylindrical tunnel is herein considered to be an essential component of Zoophycos, and thus can be used to define and characterize the morphological variability of Zoophycos. It is suggested that the variation of spreite and major and minor lamellae originated from the different morphologies and migration manners of the cylindrical tunnel. The shallowest, shallow, middle and deepest Zoophycos tiers have been distinguished in ZCI on the basis of cross-cutting relationships, the soft-sediment deformation and the contrast in colour between Zoophycos and its host rock. The multiple tiers may represent the substrate consistency spectrum from a softground through a stiffground to a firmground. The different Zoophycos tiers may have been constructed by tracemakers of either different or the same taxonomic affinities in response to the gradual accretion and lithification of sediment layers on the seafloor. The tracemakers appeared to be very sensitive to neither climate nor lithology. The width of the planar spreiten of Zoophycos decreases slightly with the depth of tiering in ZCI. □ Composite ichnofabric, Permian, South China, south-eastern Australia, tier, Zoophycos. © 2009 The Authors, Journal compilation © 2009 The Lethaia Foundation.