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Journal Article

Fossilization Potential of an Intertidal Fauna: Friday Harbor, Washington

Thomas J. M. Schopf
Paleobiology
Vol. 4, No. 3 (Summer, 1978), pp. 261-270
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400205
Page Count: 10

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Topics: Fossils, Genera, Fauna, Taxa, Mud, Snails, Sediments, Herbivores, Carnivores, Habitats
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Fossilization Potential of an Intertidal Fauna: Friday Harbor, Washington
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Abstract

How much of a living marine fauna would be reflected in the fossil record? In order to answer this, I investigated the probable fate of 169 megascopic genera of the intertidal fauna of the Friday Harbor, Washington region. Three methods were used and these give very similar results. (I) From morphologic examination, 30% of the mud fauna, 32% of the sand fauna, and 29% of the rock fauna are predicted to yield many identifiable fossils; 38% of the mud fauna, 42% of the sand fauna, and 41% of the rock fauna are predicted to yield few identifiable fossils; and the remainder are predicted to yield no fossils. (II) In actual fact, 44% of the mud fauna, 32% of the sand fauna, and 39% of the rock fauna have a fossil record (data from Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology). (III) The 16 sediment samples which were examined yielded 29% of the total fauna. I conclude (1) that the fossilization potential for the Friday Harbor intertidal fauna is largely independent of habitat, and (2) that 40% of the present megascopic fauna would be (and has been!) preserved in the fossil record. The fossil record would accurately (and preferentially) include the herbivore and filter feeding genera. The reason which I postulate for this is based on the suitability of heavily calcified exoskeletons to an essentially sessile mode of life, and the lack of suitability of such skeletons for readily mobile forms. 67% of the genera which essentially rest in one place are known as fossils. In contrast, only 16 to 27% of the burrowing detritus eaters (e.g., polychaetes) and roving carnivores (e.g., sea stars and crabs) are known as fossils. The percentage of herbivore and filter feeding genera in rocky environments is 39%, in sand 16% and in mud 34%. In the fossil record, deposits which were originally mud are likely to be most fossiliferous because (1) that environment has a high proportion of essentially sessile genera, (2) essentially sessile genera are far more likely to have a heavily calcified skeleton, and (3) few rock intertidal regions are buried.

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