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Deep-water taphonomy of vertebrate carcasses: a whale skeleton in the bathyal Santa Catalina Basin

  • Peter A. Allison (a1), Craig R. Smith (a2), Helmut Kukert (a2), Jody W. Deming (a3) and Bruce A. Bennett (a3)...


Taphonomic processes in deep-water environments differ markedly from those in shallow waters. These differences are illustrated by the preservational style of a large cetacean skeleton lying at the bottom of the Santa Catalina Basin in 1,240 m of water. The degree of skeletal articulation contrasts with that documented in the shallow North Sea where gas-filled, buoyant carcasses disarticulated during flotation. Increased hydrostatic pressure at greater depth is presumed to have prevented the whale carcass from floating and promoted increased levels of preservation. We present a model that relates gas evolution during decay to carcass buoyancy with depth. Application of this model may ultimately allow the degree of skeletal articulation to be used as a rough index of paleobathymetry.



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  • EISSN: 1938-5331
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