Shell beds are products of complex biological, taphonomic, and sedimentological factors. Paleoecological analysis of Pliensbachian shell accumulations from northeast Italy, Southern Alps, records successive phases of colonization and demise, each of which are characterized by specific taphonomic features and sedimentary fabrics. Field studies were augmented by serial sectioning and thin sections revealing microfacies and microtaphofacies, as well as scanning electro-microscopy (SEM) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). The term bivalve carpet is introduced to describe the original geometry of the bivalve accumulation colonizing the substrate. Within a lagoonal depositional setting, small, thin-shelled Isognomonidae-like bivalves lived as endo-byssate, non-siphonate suspension feeders. These bivalves, interpreted as juveniles, constructed bivalve carpets with a primary lateral extension while lacking a distinct vertical growth. Bivalves colonized firm, dysoxic carbonate substrates consisting of a mixture of peloids, bioclasts, and chemolithotrophic iron-oxidizing bacteria. Oxygen-rich bottom currents and microbial activity stabilized the lagoon floor thus allowing for the episodic settlement of fixosessile bivalves and their autochthonous preservation. Short-term anoxic phases interpreted to reflect seasonal decreases in water energy resulted in the mass mortalities of the juvenile bivalves. The abundance of articulated, vertical orientated valve pairs in the shell accumulations indicate that the bivalve carpets were embedded soon after the death of the organisms without prior physical disturbance.

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