Abstract

Concretions are the most characteristic mode of fossil occurrence in the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior of the United States. An in-depth analysis of a single concretion from the upper Campanian Pierre Shale, South Dakota, drawing upon sedimentology, paleontology, shell preservation, degree of encrustation, and geochemistry allows us to determine a time frame for the accumulation and burial of the organisms and the process of cementation and diagenesis of the concretion. The concretion is very fossiliferous and dominated by mollusks. Large ammonites are commonly broken up with pieces missing from the adapical end of the body chamber. This breakage pattern is widely interpreted as evidence of lethal damage, implying introduction into the burial site via predation. In contrast, smaller ammonites are nearly complete and may have died due to smothering in resuspended sediment produced by bottom currents. The concretion is rich in cephalopod jaws, which mostly appear as isolated occurrences, usually deformed, with the calcite covering (aptychus) missing. The preservation of jaws suggests that the organic debris did not remain in the taphonomically active zone for more than a few years. The concretion, thus, represents a time-averaged deposit of organisms derived from the local community. In contrast, host sediments contain fewer fossils, most of which are crushed. Oxygen and carbon isotopic composition of samples in the concretion and the host sediments reveals a two-stage diagenetic history of the concretion. First, cementation probably occurred at shallow burial depths in early diagenesis in association with the decomposition of organic matter and the oxidation of methane. Second, alteration of the shelly material and the formation of calcite crystals filling the empty chambers of ammonites probably occurred during later diagenesis in contact with meteoric water.

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