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Ichthyosaur falls created "whale fall" communities (free pdf)



Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com

A new paper in open access:

Silvia Danise, Richard J. Twitchett & Katie Matts (2014)
Ecological succession of a Jurassic shallow-water ichthyosaur fall.
Nature Communications 5, Article number: 4789
doi:10.1038/ncomms5789
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140910/ncomms5789/full/ncomms5789.html


After the discovery of whale fall communities in modern oceans, it has
been hypothesized that during the Mesozoic the carcasses of marine
reptiles created similar habitats supporting long-lived and
specialized animal communities. Here, we report a fully documented
ichthyosaur fall community, from a Late Jurassic shelf setting, and
reconstruct the ecological succession of its micro- and macrofauna.
The early 'mobile-scavenger' and 'enrichment-opportunist' stages were
not succeeded by a 'sulphophilic stage' characterized by
chemosynthetic molluscs, but instead the bones were colonized by
microbial mats that attracted echinoids and other mat-grazing
invertebrates. Abundant cemented suspension feeders indicate a
well-developed 'reef stage' with prolonged exposure and colonization
of the bones prior to final burial, unlike in modern whale falls where
organisms such as the ubiquitous bone-eating worm Osedax rapidly
destroy the skeleton. Shallow-water ichthyosaur falls thus fulfilled
similar ecological roles to shallow whale falls, and did not support
specialized chemosynthetic communities.