Emplacement and preservation of vertebrates in caves and fissures


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May 2008


The sediments filling underground cavities and open fissures represent a major source of fossil vertebrate remains. The significance of such sites is disproportionate to the relatively small volume of sediment which they contain, and arises from the enhanced preservation, compared with surface sites, of both bones and sediments and the operation of one or more concentrative processes. Isolation of vertebrate material from temperature and humidity changes, scavenging and soil organisms greatly increases their preservation potential. Three main types of concentrative mechanism can be recognized: where the animals lived and died in that environment (biotic autochthonous); where the animal remains were transported into that environment by some biotic agency, such as a predator (biotic allochthonous); and where the animal remains were introduced into that environment as a result of some abiotic process, such as flooding (abiotic allochthonous). The precise mechanism operating in a particular case may be deduced from a consideration of faunal composition, taphonomic criteria and geomorphological and sedimentological contexts, with each concentrative process being characterized by a distinctive combination of these.


Karst, Neptunian Dykes, Rock Shelters, Lagerstätten, Hydrology

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Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 112, no. 1-2 (2008-05-15).