, Volume 90, Issue 4, pp 701–722 | Cite as

Mass occurrence of the enigmatic gastropod Elmira in the Late Cretaceous Sada Limestone seep deposit in southwestern Shikoku, Japan

  • Takami NobuharaEmail author
  • Daigaku Onda
  • Takuya Sato
  • Hidemi Aosawa
  • Toyoho Ishimura
  • Akira Ijiri
  • Urumu Tsunogai
  • Naoki Kikuchi
  • Yasuo Kondo
  • Steffen Kiel
Research Paper


Elmira is a medium-to-large gastropod of uncertain systematic affinity, which has so far been reported only from a presumably Eocene methane-seep deposit in Cuba. This study reports a mass occurrence of Elmira shimantoensis Kiel and Nobuhara sp. nov. from a Late Cretaceous hydrocarbon-seep deposit in Shikoku, Japan, called the Sada Limestone. Its paleoecology is reconstructed based on its mode of occurrence, carbonate petrology, and stable carbon isotope analyses. The fauna of the Sada Limestone in general is characterized by an abundance of large chemosymbiotic bivalves of the family Thyasiridae and of “Serpula” tubes. The mass occurrence of Elmira shimantoensis was found in a lens-shaped carbonate body with a flat top and a concave base, 6.5 m in length and less than 2 m in thickness, consisting of multiple layers of shell accumulations, which were formed by shell-winnowing and the filling of a depression in slope mud. The scarcity of Elmira shimantoensis elsewhere in the Sada Limestone suggests that it formed locally from a gregarious population in the vicinity of the depression, possibly on hard ground. The matrix of the mass occurrence is rich in dolomite and ankerite, and is less depleted in 13C (δ13C values of calcite: −5.3 to −2.4 ‰; of dolomite: −8.3 ‰) than the matrix of the enclosing thyasirid-rich and tube-rich limestones. This suggests that the gastropod mass occurrence was cemented below the sulfate reduction zone and has thus undergone little anaerobic methane oxidation. Therefore, Elmira shimantoensis is reconstructed here as a bacteria grazer on a hard substrate such as exposed carbonate mounds rather than as a species that relied on chemosynthetic symbionts for nutrition.


Cretaceous Chemosymbiosis Seep carbonate Elmira Gastropoda 


Elmira ist eine mittelgroße bis große Schnecke ungeklärter systematischer Stellung, die bisher nur aus einem vermutlich eozänen Methanquellen-Karbonat auf Kuba bekannt war. In der vorliegenden Arbeit wird ein Massenvorkommen von Elmira shimantoensis sp. nov. im Sada Limestone–Ablagerungen einer oberkretazischen Kohlenwasserstoff-Quelle in Shikoku in Japan–beschrieben und seine Paläoökologie basierend auf der Art des Fossilvorkommens, der Karbonatmikrofazies und der Analyse von stabilen Isotopen rekonstruiert. Die wichtigsten Faunenelemente des Sada Limestone sind Massenvorkommen der großen, chemosymbiontischen Muschel ‘Thyasirahataii und von Röhren von serpuliden Würmern. Das Massenvorkommen von Elmira shimantoensis befindet sich in einer etwa 6.5 m langen und fast 2 m hohen Kalklinse mit einer flachen Oberseite und einer konkaven Basis, besteht aus mehreren fossilreichen Lagen, und entstand vermutlich durch Ablagerung und Auswaschung der Schalen in einer Vertiefung im Meeresboden. Da Elmira shimantoensis außerhalb des Massenvorkommens sehr selten ist, wird vermutet, dass sie gehäuft in der Nähe des Einbettungsortes gelebt hat. Die Matrix des Massenvorkommens ist reich an Dolomit und Ankerit und ist weniger stark an 13C abgereichert (δ13C-Werte des Kalzits: –5.3 bis –2.4 ‰; des Dolomits: –8.3 ‰) als die der umgebenden Thyasiriden- und Wurmröhren-reichen Kalke. Das deutet darauf hin, dass die Zementation des Schnecken-Massenvorkommens unterhalb der Sulfatreduktionszone, und damit nur unter geringem Einfluss anaerober Methanoxidation, stattfand. Wir vermuten, dass Elmira shimantoensis Bakterienmatten von Hardgründen abweidete und nicht chemosymbiontisch lebte.


Kreide Chemosymbiose Methanquellen-Karbonat Elmira Gastropoda 



We thank Ryuichi Majima (Yokohama National University), Kazutaka Amano (Joetsu University of Education), Yoshinori Hikida (Nakagawa Museum of Natural History), and Robert G. Jenkins (Kanazawa University) for discussions during fieldwork, and Jörn Peckmann (University of Hamburg) for discussions of carbonate petrography. A detailed topographical survey of the study area was performed by Meiji Consultant Co. Ltd. under the direction of Masato Taniguchi and Futoshi Akamatsu (In Situ Solutions Co., Ltd. at present). We are also indebted to Kenji Kusunoki (Shizuoka University) and Axel Hackmann (University of Göttingen) for thin-section preparation. Our special thanks go to Alexander Nützel (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) and Andrzej Kaim (Polish Academy of Science) for their helpful comments that allowed us to improve our manuscript. The fieldwork was permitted by the Residents’ Association of Sada Village. Financial support was provided by JSPS KAKENHI (18340165 and 23540548 to T.N., 25701002 to T.I.: Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science), and also by the FWF–Der Wissenschaftsfonds, Austria, through a Lise Meitner fellowship, and by Joetsu University of Education, Japan, through a visiting scientist grant to S.K.


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Copyright information

© Paläontologische Gesellschaft 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education (Geology)Shizuoka UniversityShizuokaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Material EngineeringNational Institute of Technology, Ibaraki CollegeHitachinakaJapan
  3. 3.Kochi Institute for Cores Sample ResearchJAMSTECNankokuJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Environmental StudiesNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  5. 5.Museum of Nature and Human ActivitiesSandaJapan
  6. 6.Sciences Unit, Natural Sciences ClusterKochi UniversityKochiJapan
  7. 7.Department of PalaeobiologySwedish Museum of Natural HistoryStockholmSweden

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