Abstract

Olenid trilobites are characteristic of low-oxygen environments in the early Paleozoic, and researchers have proposed that olenids may have harbored chemoautotrophic symbionts, allowing them to live in borderline sulfidic environments. Beds with soft-tissue preservation at the Beecher's Trilobite Bed site in the Frankfort Shale and the Martin Quarry in the Whetstone Gulf Formation (both Ordovician, New York State) are dominated by the olenid Triarthrus. A bed-by-bed analysis of the sedimentology, taphonomy, paleoecology, and ichnology demonstrates that the exceptionally preserved organisms did not undergo extensive transport, and that the intervals bearing Triarthrus accumulated predominantly in the lower part of the dysaerobic zone. These intervals contain a low-diversity benthic fauna occurring in relatively low abundance, and consisting primarily of small brachiopods and trilobites. The taphonomy, in particular localized pyritization, the associated fauna, and the distribution of Triarthrus elsewhere in the Taconic foreland basin demonstrate that the environments in which Triarthrus lived were not sulfidic, and that these trilobites were unlikely to have adopted a chemoautotrophic mode of life.

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