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Biodiversity structure of an exceptionally preserved Aquitanian bivalve assemblage (Meilhan, SW France)

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Biodiversity estimates through geological times are difficult because of taphonomic perturbations that affect sedimentary records. Pristine shell assemblages, however, allow for calibration of past diversity. Diversity structures of two exceptionally preserved Miocene bivalve assemblages are quantitatively determined, compared with recent communities and used as paleoenvironmental proxy. The extremely rich assemblages were collected in Aquitanian (Early Miocene) carbonate sands of the Vives Quarry (Meilhan, SW France). Both paleontological and sedimentological data indicate a coral patch-reef environment, which deposits were affected by transport processes. Among two samples more than 28.000 shells were counted and 135 species identified. Sample Vives 1 is interpreted as a proximal debris flow and Sample Vives 2 as a sandy shoreface/foreshore environment influenced by storms. The two Vives assemblages have a similar diversity structure despite facies differences. Rarefaction curves level off at ~600 shells. The rare species account for more than 80 % of the species pool. The high values of PIE diversity index suggest a relatively high species richness and an even distribution of abundance of the most common species within the assemblages.

The fossil data are compared to death shell assemblages (family level) of a modern reefal setting (Touho area, New Caledonia). The shape of the rarefaction curves and PIE indices of Meilhan fossil assemblages compare well to modern data, especially those of deep (>10 m water depth), sandy depositional environments found downward the reef slope (slope and pass settings). In addition to primary ecological signals, the similarity of the Vives samples and the Recent deep samples derives from taphonomic processes. This assumption is supported by sedimentological and paleontological observations. Sediment transports gather allochthonous and in situ materials leading to mixing of various ecological niches. Such taphonomic processes are recorded in the diversity metrics. Environmental mixing and time-averaging of the shell assemblages disturb the preservation of local-scale diversity properties but favour the sampling of the regional-scale diversity.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-08-01

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