Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 April 2019
A rich echinoid fauna within the middle Miocene carbonate sedimentary succession cropping out along the coast between Santa Caterina di Pittinuri and S'Archittu (central-western Sardinia) allows the comparison of faunal gradients and preservation potentials from both hard and soft substrata. Three echinoid assemblages are recognized. Faunal composition, as well as taphonomic and sedimentological features and functional morphological interpretation of the echinoid test indicate an outer sublittoral setting. Assemblage 1 represents a highly structured environment within the photic zone, with mobile substrata occupied by infaunal irregular echinoids, mainly spatangoids, and localized hard substrata, provided by rhodolith beds, with epibenthic regular echinoids represented by the co-occurrence of the diadematid Diadema Gray, 1825 and the toxopneustids Tripneustes L. Agassiz, 1841 and Schizechinus Pomel, 1869. Assemblage 2 shows a higher diversity of irregular echinoids, dominated by the clypeasteroids Echinocyamus van Phelsum, 1774 and Clypeaster Lamarck, 1801 and different spatangoids, with the minute trigonocidarid Genocidaris A. Agassiz, 1869 among regular echinoids. This assemblage points to a soft-bottom environment with moderate water-energy conditions, periodically affected by storms. A low-diversity echinoid fauna in Assemblage 3, dominated by the spatangoids Brissopsis L. Agassiz, 1840 and Ova Gray, 1825, documents a deeper, soft-bottom environment, possibly below storm-wave base. These results indicate that the diversity of echinoid faunas originating in sublittoral environments is related to: (1) the presence of both soft and hard substrata, (2) differential preservation potentials of the various echinoid taxa, (3) intense bioturbation, and (4) sediment deposition by sporadic storm events.