Abstract

The crinoid fossil record is dominated by isolated ossicles, pluricolumnals, arm segments, and other fragmentary remains resulting from postmortem skeletal disarticulation; however, few studies to date have focused on dissociated crinoid elements in taphonomic and/or paleoenvironmental analysis. A diverse, abundant, and taphonomically variable crinoid fauna recovered from a thin mudstone interval within the Upper Pennsylvanian Barnsdall Formation in northeastern Oklahoma presents a unique opportunity to test the value of incomplete crinoid remains in reconstructing paleoenvironmental conditions and understanding taphonomic patterns. Isolated radial plates were identified to the most precise level possible, commonly genus or species, and used to calculate the minimum number of completely disarticulated individuals; this value was then compared to the number of articulated specimens representing that same taxon to determine the proportion of individuals with cups that have undergone disarticulation into separate ossicles. Cladid taxa are shown to be particularly prone to total disarticulation, with disparid microcrinoids and, somewhat surprisingly, flexibles demonstrating more resistance to disarticulation. Genus-level taphonomic trends among cladid taxa indicate that genera with large but thin cup plates, short anal sacs, and arms capable of adopting a trauma posture are less prone to total disarticulation. Analysis of fragmentary crinoid material recovered from disaggregation of bulk mudstone slabs reveals that thin horizons containing abundant articulated crinoid crowns are enriched in skeletal material and encrusted ossicles relative to thicker subjacent and superjacent intervals, providing further evidence that such horizons represent periods of sediment starvation on the distal shelf that were episodically punctuated by storm events.

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