Title

Taphonomic field experiments and the role of the Shelf and Slope Experimental Taphonomy Initiative

Abstract

Fossilization of organism remains is the result of biological, physical, and chemical processes at work in the environment of deposition. The pathways taken by the remains of organisms through death, decay, burial, and diagenesis (known as taphonomic pathways) affect the fossil record of life in important ways, from complete removal and recycling of remains to preservation of hard parts and sometimes to exceptional preservation of soft tissues. Our understanding of taphonomic processes informs our interpretations of the fossil record and helps in the reconstruction of ancient environments. Research into taphonomic pathways in modern environments provides important insight into the fossilization process. In 1993, a group of paleontologists formed the Shelf and Slope Experimental Taphonomy Initiative (SSETI) and began a long-term comparative study of taphofacies and differential decay of taxonomic groups by placing experimental arrays containing bivalves, gastropods, decapod crustaceans, sea urchins, and wood species at multiple marine shelf and slope sites in the Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico. The goal of SSETI is to observe taphonomic processes over a period of decades to better understand taphonomic pathways for these various groups of taxa in a wide variety of depositional environments beyond the shallow near shore region. This special volume brings together eight studies that are the result of the SSETI program. The focus of this contribution is to first review the body of published work concerned with the fossilization process through the experimental manipulation of the remains of organisms in modern marine environments. We also present the methods of the SSETI project and its contributions to our understanding of taphonomic processes in relation to carbonate and wood recycling and preservation. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publisher

Elsevier

Publication Date

12-15-2011

Publication Title

Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

Department

Geology

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.11.009

Notes

Special Issue: The Shelf and Slope Experimental Taphonomy Initiative (SSETI): Thirteen years of taphonomic observations on carbonate and wood in the Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico

Keywords

Gulf of Mexico, Sediment water interface, Lee Stocking Island, Fossil record, Molluscan taphofacies, Continental Shelf, Bivalve shells, Brine seep

Language

English

Format

text

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