Abstract

Shell fragments are extremely abundant in many marine environments; the origins of these fragments can largely be attributed to either crushing by predators or post-mortem processes such as transport. We present and test a new approach to identifying the origin of shell fragments in marine environments by examining modern mollusc assemblages from three wave-exposed, low-predation and three wave-sheltered, high-predation intertidal localities in Bamfield, British Columbia. We hypothesized that fragments with all-rounded edges (AR) or a combination of rounded and sharp edges (R&S) are indicative of taphonomic processes such as transport and so should occur more often in wave-exposed, low-predation localities whereas fragments with all sharp edges (AS) or a combination of intact and sharp edges (I&S), indicative of predation, should be more common in wave-sheltered, high-predation settings. In keeping with the prediction, All-Rounded (AR) and Rounded and Sharp (R&S) fragments are more abundant at the wave-exposed localities than at wave-sheltered localities whereas Intact and Sharp (I&S) and All-Sharp (AS) fragments are more abundant at high-predation localities than at low-predation localities. The two types of localities were statistically distinguishable for either gastropod or bivalve fragments. This supports the hypothesis that I&S and AS result from predation, whereas AR and R&S have a taphonomic genesis.

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