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Surface Textures of Shells as Taphonomic Indicators

  • Alan H. Cutler (a1)

Abstract

Taphonomic analysis of fossil remains can provide information on the post-mortem history of the fossils, and may also be useful in interpreting associated sediments. A preliminary survey of the interior surfaces of Recent Chione shells shows that biologic, physical, and chemical agents attacking carbonate substrates in the intertidal environment of Bahia la Choya, Sonora, Mexico, leave behind diagnostic traces of their action.

Shells collected from across the tidal flats and from beach ridge deposits were examined under the SEM and binocular microscope. Tidal flat specimens were dominated by the effects of microboring endoliths. Even recently dead, articulated specimens showed some infestation. Excavation of surfaces by microborers goes through predictable stages, and may therefore be useful for relative “dating” of shells and for estimating burial/sedimentation rates. Beach ridge specimens show a heterogenous array of textures, some inherited from earlier taphonomic episodes, others produced in situ. Textures overprint one another and document transport between habitats.

Similar surface textures should be identifiable in the fossil record and could provide important paleoecologic and sedimentologic information.

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References

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