PATCHINESS AND SPATIAL RESOLUTION IN MOLLUSK DEATH ASSEMBLAGES IN SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS
We addressed these questions using mollusk death assemblages from 14 localities on the island of San Salvador, Bahamas. At each locality, we collected bulk samples at 10 meter intervals along onshore-offshore transects ranging in length from 50 to 130 meters. We found that the mollusk assemblages varied in composition among transects, despite all localities being from a relatively small island. Mollusk assemblages from within transects were more similar than assemblages from adjacent transects. In addition to within-habitat patchiness, several environmental factors also seem to influence mollusk faunal assemblages, including seagrass proximity and the level of anthropogenic disturbance.
Our results suggest that mollusk death assemblages exhibit and retain a high level of patchiness, and that spatial information resulting from environmental variables and habitat types may be well preserved within shell death assemblages at relatively fine scales (e.g. tens of meters). Paleontologists who are interested in measuring diversity in fossil habitats may be able to find small scale environmental changes preserved in the fossil record, and need to sample in ways that account for patchiness, keeping in mind the degree of spatial variation in faunal assemblages that may be present among and within habitat types.