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Cephalopods: biasing agents in the preservation of lobsters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2016

Dale M. Tshudy
1Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242
Rodney M. Feldmann
1Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242
Peter D. Ward
2Department of Geological Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle 98195


Modern Nautilus, in natural and laboratory settings, scavenges both dead and molted decapod crustaceans. Ingestion of palinurid lobster exuviae by Nautilus follows a specific pattern in which the cephalopod consumes the exoskeleton beginning at the posteriormost part of the abdomen and continuing anteriorly. During the ingestion process, the cephalothorax is least likely to be consumed, either because the Nautilus may abandon the remains, or the cephalothorax may become separated from the abdomen at its weakest point, the articulation of the cephalothorax with the abdomen. Examination of 767 fossil lobster specimens from 50 formations, 41 of Cretaceous age, demonstrates that the fossil record of lobsters, the preponderance of which appear to be exuviae, is strongly biased in favor of cephalothoraxes. Observations on Nautilus suggest that anatomically selective scavenging by ancient cephalopods, both nautiloids and ammonoids, may explain, in part, the selective preservation of lobster cephalothoraxes over abdomens. Despite the range of variation in jaw morphologies among ammonoids, probably most could have fragmented and ingested decapod remains. Evidence for selective scavenging in the geologic past is purely circumstantial; no cephalopod bitemarks have been identified on fossil lobster exuviae. Pre-burial decomposition of connective tissues and subsequent disarticulation of the abdomen in the absence of scavenging may also have contributed significantly to the observed anatomical taphonomic bias.

Research Article
Copyright © The Paleontological Society 

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