SIX THOUSAND LITTLE PIECES: SHELL FRAGMENTS AS AN INDICATOR OF CRUSHING PREDATION INTENSITY
We tested whether the nature of fragments reflects predation frequency in modern mollusk assemblages from three high- and three low-predation intertidal localities in Bamfield, British Columbia. Predation intensity at each locality was established independently by live-gastropod repairs and crab abundance. We categorized the edges of shell fragments >1/8" (N = 5800) as: intact (original, unabraded margin); rounded (original or broken edge is eroded smooth); or sharp (broken, uneroded edge). Each fragment was assigned to one of four edge categories: AR (All edges Rounded by abiotic abrasion), R&S (both Rounded and Sharp edges, fragmentation occurred after taphonomic abrasion), I&S (both Intact and Sharp edges, no evidence of taphonomy), and AS (All edges Sharp, no evidence of taphonomy). We hypothesized that AR and R&S, indicative of taphonomy, should be more frequent in low-predation localities. I&S and AS, lacking evidence of taphonomy, may result from predation and should be more common in high-predation environments.
I&S and AS fragments comprise 21-51% of fragments at high-predation localities, and only 3-15% at low-predation localities. High- and low-predation localities were distinguishable based on the abundances of the categories (Chi-square tests, p << 0.001); this is true for both gastropod and bivalve shell fragments. This supports our hypothesis that I&S and AS result from predation, while AR and R&S are taphonomic. Thus, the nature of the shell fragments independently corroborates crushing predation frequencies at our study localities. Shell fragmentation could be a valuable tool in assessing crushing predation in marine communities, and additional studies confirming the relationship between fragmentation and predation are needed, particularly targeting fossil data.