A palaeoecological review of the lower Gatun Formation (Miocene) of Panama with special emphasis on trophic relationships

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Abstract

A thorough literature review in combination with an analysis of fossil material from collections enables a detailed reconstruction of the ecosystem of the lower Gatun Formation (Serravallian to Tortonian; late middle to early late Miocene) of Central Panama. The fossil record is highly diverse and includes foraminifers, sponges, corals, mollusks, polychaetes, crustaceans, bryozoans, echinoderms, and vertebrates. The fauna indicates fully marine conditions in a shallow basin with a soft, stable substrate and mostly low water energy. The benthic life is dominated by suspension-feeding bivalves and carnivores including mainly gastropods and crustaceans. Herbivores are strikingly rare. Predator-prey relationships can be directly inferred from abundant drill holes in mollusk shells caused by naticid and muricid gastropods showing strong prey selectivity. Additionally, deep and narrow incisions at the outer lip of the apertures of gastropod shells are reported for the first time and proposed to be caused by crustaceans. Investigating the life habits of the benthic organisms revealed a moderate tiering of the fauna and the importance of empty shells as habitats for a variety of taxa. The nektonic life is highly diverse including nautilids, fishes, rays, sharks, sea turtles, crocodiles, and toothed whales. An analysis of the food preferences of the fossil fauna enables the reconstruction of a trophic web for the ecosystem of the lower Gatun Formation.

Keywords

Palaeoecology Trophic web Mollusks Neogene Central America 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Priska Schäfer is thanked for guidance in the field and providing access to the collection of fossils forming the base of the study. During the field work, Helena Fortunato contributed with logistic support and scientific discussions. Birgit Mohr, Boyke Prädel, and Moritz König helped with scanning electron microscopy. An anonymous reviewer and Sven Nielsen improved the article with their suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest:

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für GeowissenschaftenChristian-Albrechts-Universität zu KielKielGermany
  2. 2.GEOMAR, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung KielKielGermany

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