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Palaeoecology and sedimentology of the Achanarras fish bed of the Middle Old Red Sandstone, Scotland

  • Nigel H. Trewin (a1)

Abstract

The Achanarras fish bed of Middle Devonian age in the Orcadian Basin was deposited in a large freshwater lake of variable productivity in which thermal stratification was normally developed. The fish bed consists of lacustrine laminites of organic, carbonate (dolomite and calcite) and clastic types. Carbonate laminae were precipitated as a result of photosynthetic activity and organic laminae were deposited following algal decay, clastic material was introduced by processes including overflow and interflow currents and wind transport.

The fish bed represents a major lacustrine transgression during a wetter climatic period which provided connections to other lakes and by overflow to the sea. Calcitic laminites represent the deepest water (>60 m) phase with greatest faunal variety due to availability of migration routes and stability of environments caused by lake overflow.

Initial lake transgression was characterised by Dipteras-dominated faunas which reappear as the last surviving fish during lake regression. Further regression resulted in the introduction of turbidites to the laminites.

Many fish were preserved following mass mortalities induced by algal blooms, mixing of waters by storms and lake overturn. Most of the fish inhabited shallow areas of the lake and drifted as rotting carcases to their final site of deposition. The fauna comprises a variety of benthonic and nektonic fish including predators, scavengers and omnivorous forms. Fish such as Coccosteus represented almost exclusively by adults may have bred outside the area of the lake.

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