Skip to main content Accessibility help

Surface Textures of Shells as Taphonomic Indicators

  • Alan H. Cutler (a1)


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.



Hide All
Alexandersson, E.T. 1972. Micritization of carbonate particles: processes of precipitation and dissolution in modern shallow marine sediments. Bulletin of the Geological Institution, University of Upsala, New Series 3, 7: 201236.
Alexandersson, E.T. 1975. Etch patterns on calcareous sediment grains: petrographic evidence of marine dissolution of carbonate minerals. Science, 189: 4748.
Alexandersson, E.T. 1978. Petrographic saturometry in marine carbonate sediments. Scanning Electron Microscopy/1978, 1: 503511.
Alexandersson, E.T. 1979. Marine maceration of skeletal carbonates in the Skagerrak, North Sea. Sedimentology, 26: 845852.
Boekschoten, G.J. 1966. Shell borings of sessile epibiontic organisms as paleoecological guides (with examples from the Dutch coast). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 2: 333379.
Brett, C.E and Baird, G.C. 1986. Comparative taphonomy: a key to paleoenvironmental interpretation based on fossil preservation. Palaios, 1: 207227.
Budd, D.A. and Perkins, R.D. 1980. Bathymetric zonation and paleoecological significance of microborings in Puerto Rican shelf and slope sediments. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 50: 881904.
Cottrell, J.F. 1974. Traces of marine grasses from fossil molluscan shells. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 6: 697.
Farrow, G.E., Allen, N.H., and Akpan, E.B. 1984. Bioclastic carbonate sedimentation on a high-latitude, tide-dominated shelf: northeast Orkney Islands, Scotland. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 54: 373393.
Farrow, G.E. and Clokie, J.J.P. 1979. Molluskan grazing of sub-littoral algal-bored shell material and the production of carbonate mud: Firth of Clyde, Scotland. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 70: 139148.
Flessa, K.W. and Brown, T. 1983. Selective solution of macroinvertebrate calcareous hard parts: a laboratory study. Lethaia, 16: 193205.
Flessa, K.W. and Ekdale, A.A. 1987. Paleoecology and taphonomy of Recent to Pleistocene intertidal deposits, Gulf of California, in Davis, G.H. and VanderDolder, E.M. (eds.), Geologic diversity of Arizona and its margins: excursions to choice areas. Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology Special Paper 5.
Fürsich, F.T. and Flessa, K.W., in press, Taphonomy of tidal flat molluscs in the the northern Gulf of California: paleoenvironmental analysis despite the perils of preservation. Palaios, (in press).
Golubic, S., Brent, G., and Le Campion, T. 1970. Scanning electron microscopy of endolithic algae and fungi using a multipurpose casting-embedding technique. Lethaia, 3: 203209.
Golubic, S., Perkins, R.D. and Lukas, K.J. 1975. Boring microorganisms and microborings in carbonate substrates, in Frey, R.W. (ed.), The Study of Trace Fossils: A synthesis of principles, problems and procedures in Ichnology. Springer-Verlag, New York. p.229259.
Golubic, S. and Schneider, J. 1979. Carbonate dissolution, in Trudinger, P.A. and Swaine, D.J., (eds.), Biogeochemical Cycling of Mineral-forming elements. Elsevier, New York. p.107129.
Hoffman, E.J. 1985. Distribution patterns of Recent microbial endoliths in the intertidal and supratidal zones, Bermuda, in Curran, H.A. (ed.), Biogenic Structures: Their use in interpreting depositional environments. Society of Economic Paleontologists and Minerologists Special Publication 35, p.179194.
Jackson, J.B.C. 1983. Biological determinants of present and past sessile animal distributions, in Tevesz, M.J.S. and McCall, P.L. (eds.), Biotic interactions in Recent and fossil benthic communities. Plenum, New York, p.39120.
Kahle, C.F. 1977. Origin of subaerial Holocene calcareous crusts: role of algae, fungi, and sparmicritization. Sedimentology, 24: 413436.
Kobluk, D.R. and Risk, M.J. 1977. Rate and nature of infestation of a carbonate substratum by a boring alga. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 27: 107115.
Perkins, R.D. and Tsentas, C.I. 1976. Microbial infestation of carbonate substrates planted on the St. Croix shelf, West Indies. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 87: 16151628.
Schmaltz, R.F. and Swanson, F.J. 1969. Diurnal variations in the carbonate saturation of seawater. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 39: 255267.
Speyer, S.E. and Brett, C.E. 1986. Trilobite taphonomy and Middle Devonian taphofacies. Palaios, 1: 312327
Taylor, J.D. 1970. Reef associated molluscan assemblages in the western Indian Ocean. Symposium of the Zoological Society of London, 28: 501.
Tudhope, A.W. and Risk, M.J. 1984. Rate of dissolution of carbonate sediments by microboring organisms, Davies Reef, Australia. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 55: 440447.
Voigt, E. 1977. On grazing traces produced by the radula of fossil and Recent gastropods and chitons, in Crimes, T.P. and Harper, J.C. (eds.), Trace Fossils 2. Geological Journal Special Issue Number 9, p.335346.
Walker, B.M. 1979. Shell Dissolution: Destructive diagenesis in a meteoric environment. Scanning Electron Microscopy/1979, 2: 463468.
Wilkes, D.A. and Crenshaw, M.A. 1979. Formation of a dissolution layer in molluscan shells. Scanning Electron Microscopy/1979, 2:469474.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed