Paleontologists have always been concerned about the documentary quality of the fossil record, and this has also become an important issue for biologists, who increasingly look to accumulations of bones, shells, and plant material as possible ways to extend the time-frame of observation on species and community behaviors. Quantitative data on the postmortem behavior of organic remains in modern environments are providing new insights into death and fossil assemblages as sources of biological information. Important findings include: 1. With the exception of a few circumstances, usually recognizable by independent criteria, transport out of the original life habitat affects few individuals. 2. Most species with preservable hardparts are in fact represented in the local death assemblage, commonly in correct rank importance. Molluscs are the most durable of modern aquatic groups studied so far, and they show highest fidelity to the original community. 3. Time-averaging of remains from successive generations and communities often prevents the detection of short-term (seasons, years) variability but provides an excellent record of the of community composition and structure over longer periods. Thus, although a complex array of processes and circumstances influences preservation, death assemblages of resistant skeletal elements are for many major groups good to excellent records of community composition, morphological variation, and environmental and geographic distribution of species, and such assemblages can record temporal dynamics at ecologically and evolutionarily meaningful scales.

Keyword(s): ecologypaleoecologytaphonomy

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error