Abstract

Recent observations indicate that shell fragmentation can be a useful tool in assessing crushing predation in marine communities. However, criteria for recognizing shell breakage caused by durophagous predators versus physical factors are still not well established. Here, we provide data from tumbling and aquarium experiments to argue that physical and biotic processes lead to different patterns of shell damage, specifically that angular shell fragments are good indicators of durophagous predation. Using such angular shell fragments as a predation proxy, we analyze data from 57 European Paleozoic localities spanning the Ordovician through the Mississippian. Our results reveal a significant increase in angular shell fragments (either occurring as isolated valves or present in regurgitalites) in the Mississippian. The timing of this increase is coincident with the increased diversity of crushing predators as well as marked anti-predatory changes in the architecture and mode of life of invertebrate prey observed after the end-Devonian Hangenberg extinction (359 Ma). More specifically, the observed trend in shell fragmentation constitutes strong and independent confirmation of a recently suggested end-Devonian changeover in the primary method of fish predation from shearing to crushing. These results also highlight the important effect of extinction events, not only on taxonomic diversity, but also on the nature of predator-prey interactions.

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