Influence of hydro-sedimentary factors on mollusc death assemblages in a temperate mixed tide-and-wave dominated coastal environment: Implications for the fossil record

Abstract : Mollusc death assemblages were recovered in 98 subtidal sampling stations on the seafloor of the shallow Pertuis Charentais Sea (Atlantic coast of France). Taxonomic composition and spatial distribution of death assemblages were investigated, as well as their response to sediment grain size (field data), bottom shear stress (coupled tide and wave hydrodynamic modelling), and sediment budget (bathymetric difference map). Results showed that molluscs are likely to be reliable paleoenvironmental indicators since death assemblages were able to acquire ecological changes within years (decadal-scale taphonomic inertia), and live–dead agreement inferred from existing data on living benthic communities was high, except close to river mouths and intertidal mudflats that provide terrestrial and intertidal species to subtidal death assemblages, respectively. Taxonomic composition of these within-habitat death assemblages strongly depended on sediment grain size and bottom shear stress, similarly to living subtidal communities. Post-mortem dispersal of shells, owing to relatively low bottom shear stress in the area, was only of a few 10s to 100s of meters, which shows that death assemblages preserved environmental gradients even at a fine spatial scale. Sediment budget had also a significant influence on death assemblages. Thick-shelled epifaunal species were correlated with erosion areas on one side, and thin-shelled infaunal species with deposition on the other, showing that mollusc fossil assemblages could be used as indicators of paleo-sedimentation rate. This new proxy was successfully tested on a previously published Holocene mollusc fossil record from the same area. It was possible to refine the paleoenvironmental interpretation already proposed, in accordance with existing stratigraphic and sedimentological data.
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Clément Poirier, Pierre-Guy Sauriau, Eric Chaumillon, Xavier Bertin. Influence of hydro-sedimentary factors on mollusc death assemblages in a temperate mixed tide-and-wave dominated coastal environment: Implications for the fossil record. Continental Shelf Research, Elsevier, 2010, 30, 〈10.1016/j.csr.2010.08.015〉. 〈hal-01242277〉

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