Abstract

Surveys of submarine caves and overhanging ledges from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, provide new insights into the preservational processes active therein and into the taphonomy of ancient counterparts. Comparisons of preservable, skeletonized versus nonpreservable, unskeletonized components of these modern cryptic communities indicate that there is significant information loss in areals coverage, taxonomic richness, and diversity of fossilized examples. Quantitative estimates of such losses have been made. In addition, skeletal differences between early and late stage successional groups suggest biased representation of the former in the geologic record. Nonpreservable later colonizers may further erase the record of skeletonized forms through destructive life processes. Such forms of taphonomic information loss are probable in ancient counterparts and must be considered in accurate reconstruction of cryptic paleocommunities.

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