Earth and Life pp 189-223 | Cite as

Fossil Fish Taphonomy and the Contribution of Microfossils in Documenting Devonian Vertebrate History

  • Carole J. BurrowEmail author
  • Susan Turner
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


Of late little work has been done on Palaeozoic fossil fish taphonomy especially in the Devonian period, [known also as the Age of Fishes], apart from the best-known Lagerstätten. Konservat deposits in the Silurian are rarer even though they have produced the earliest described complete fossil fish. In recent decades, research including taphonomic studies of fossil assemblages from konzentrat–bonebed deposits, especially in the Devonian in East Gondwana (particularly Australia) have given ‘added value’ to work on complete remains. Analysis of Australian bonebed and rich fish-bearing deposits has expanded temporal resolution in the mid-Palaeozoic fossil record (sample acuity; stratigraphic completeness) and contributed to solutions of broad-scale problems in evolution, biogeography, and biostratigraphy. Taphonomic studies provide new insights into palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and have palaeobiologic significance including ontogenetic development, population composition, and post-mortem processes.


Mass mortalities Taphonomy Post-mortem processes Transport Degradation Bonebeds Biostratigraphy Palaeobiogeography Agnatha Gnathostomata 



This chapter is dedicated to the life and work of Professor Dr. Wolf-Ernst Reif and Professor Dr. Dolf Seilacher and their students and colleagues at Tübingen who have done so much to illuminate bonebed studies. CJB thanks the Queensland Museum and the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of Queensland, for use of facilities. ST thanks the Geosciences, Queensland Museum and Institut für Geowissenschaften, Eberhardt-Karls Universität, Tübingen. We are indebted to Gavin Hanke and Kate Trinasjic for helpful reviews of our manuscript. This is a contribution to IGCP 491: Middle Palaeozoic Vertebrate Biogeography, Palaeogeography and Climate.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GeosciencesQueensland MuseumHendraAustralia
  2. 2.School of GeosciencesQueensland Museum GeosciencesHendraAustralia
  3. 3.School of GeosciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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