Analysing the taphonomy of Mesozoic lizard aggregates from Uña (eastern Spain) by X-ray controlled decay experiments

  • Annette RichterEmail author
  • Michael Wuttke
Original Paper


Well-preserved lizard bone aggregates from the Lower Cretaceous (Barremian) coals of Uña (eastern Spain) show varying combinations of skeletal elements which obviously represent different stages of disarticulation. Unfortunately, this does not give information about the mode and timing of decomposition, besides the fact that the soft tissue decayed while the bone was very well preserved. Due to the absence of appropriate documentation of the decomposition sequence of an extant lizard carcass, an actualistic palaeontological experiment was conducted using a carcass of one individual of the iguanid Oplurus cuvieri. To get information about the invisible sub-integumentary disarticulation of the skeleton, this process was continuously documented using X-rays. The general agreement of the experiments with the fossil stages of preservation is consistent with a subaquatic decay process for the Uña lizards. Also, the experiments record an unambiguous order of disarticulation and dissociation under undisturbed conditions. Even if the influence of currents is left out in this experiment, predictions can be made for transportation processes, taking the susceptibility to detachment into account.


Taphonomy Decay experiment Lizard decomposition Fossil lizard bone aggregates Palaeoenvironment 



The first author wishes to thank the late Bernard Krebs for his support and his trust. Also, the first author expresses her gratitude to all her colleagues and friends for their patience during this comprehensive study. Achim Reisdorf, Basel, James Farlow, Fort Wayne (Indiana/USA) and Thomas Keller, Wiesbaden, offered many helpful suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. Krister Smith, Frankfurt/M, is to be thanked greatly for English corrections and even more for his helpful additional comments and suggestions. Thomas Bizer, Mainz, deserves our gratitude for digital imaging of the decay stages pictures.

The second author thanks his wife Karla, who understood.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg, Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Abteilung Wissenschaft und SammlungenNiedersächsisches Landesmuseum HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Direktion Landesarchäologie, Referat ErdgeschichteGeneraldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-PfalzMainzGermany

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