Observations on Ichnology, Taphonomy and Epibiota in the Freshwater Realm

  • Author / Creator
    Lawfield, Andrew, M. W.
  • Ichnology concerns the study of interactions between organisms and both soft and hard substrates. Actualistic observation of a modern day river channel molluscan assemblage including unionid and sphaeriid bivalves and gastropods within the Saint John River, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada reveals their production of almond shaped Lockeia like resting traces, together with varied, horizontally aligned furrowed, meandering, looping and spiral plan view locomotion/grazing traces. These traces occur within a shifting sand softground substrate.
    An emersion event associated with a low water level allowed collection of unionid samples, amongst which Elliptio complanata predominates, alongside Lampsilis radiata and Anodonta implicata. Detailed analysis of shell material, with methodologies including scanning electron microscopy (SEM) reveals microboring, various taphonomic signatures and the development of biofilm and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). These are often associated with one another and their location closely influenced by the shell structure.
    Taphonomic decay of the shells was noted, with the external periostracum and prismatic aragonite layers decaying, particularly in the umbonal region. Physical puncturing and tearing penetrate the periostracum. Exposed regions of nacreous aragonite are smoothed by a combination of chemical interaction with the water column and physical abrasion from agitated silt and sand sediments. Surface pitting and circular to ovoid penetrations with morphologies comparable to Oichnus borings are noted and their formation is tentatively attributed to bacterial decay processes.
    In marine settings, the outer protective periostracum of molluscs often possesses physical and chemical defence mechanisms intended to inhibit the attachment of epibiota. Our observations suggest their absence from unionids, with final instar larval or pupal stage Trichoptera, including Goera, Neophylax and Helicopsyche selectively attached to regions of intact periostracum in preference to exposed aragonite on dead shells. In addition, live unionids can display thick growths of cyanobacterial or cyanophyte dominated microbial mat. Biofilm and extracellular polymeric substances, with bacterial, diatomaceous and filamentous components are also observed, often displaying a close association with both microboring and the shells conchiolin layers. Several styles of microboring are noted, with predominantly surficial and both simple tubular and complex network penetrative styles observed. Microborings may be attributed to cyanobacterial, cyanophyte and fungal activity.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.