Research paper

Amusium cristatum shell beds in the lower Pliocene deposits of Almería-Níjar Basin (SE Spain)

Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Universidad de Granada, Campus Fuentenueva, 18002, Granada, Spain.
Corresponding author


Densely packed monospecific-paucispecific Amusium cristatum-dominated shell beds are significant features in the lower Pliocene deposits of the Almería-Níjar Basin (SE Spain), embedded in distal prodelta fine-grained sand and silt. The shells in these concentrations are exceptionally well preserved: articulation is relatively high, fragmentation is low, abrasion is almost lacking, and many shells preserve the original colour pattern. These taphonomic signatures suggest in situ deposition forming autochthonous fossil assemblages, i.e. biological concentrations. Benthic foraminiferal assemblages found in the prodelta deposits indicate that they formed in mesotrophic mid-shelf settings.

The A. cristatum accumulations show similarities with recent concentrations of A. balloti from the Shark Bay (NW Australia). The latter species form dense populations in restricted positions of the bay from 10 to 75 m depth. The lowermost depth range of A. balloti is similar to the palaeobathymetry inferred for the A. cristatum beds. Furthermore, the shell beds studied occur in the centre of a relatively enclosed palaeobay. Apart from these coincidences, the proximate ecological causes accounting for the recent concentrations of A. balloti are still obscure. Thus, no straightforward actualistic comparison explains the biological origin of the A. cristatum shell beds. Based on benthic foraminiferal assemblages in the prodelta deposits, A. cristatum concentrations are most likely related to intermittent nutrient and food-particle supply from several deltas feeding the palaeobay. The advance of the deltas to the centre of the basin guaranteed rapid burial and the excellent preservation of the shells.

Key words: Taphonomy, biological concentrations, Amusium balloti, Amusium pleuronectes, Abrioja delta.

How to cite: Aguirre, J. 2017. Amusium cristatum shell beds in the lower Pliocene deposits of Almería-Níjar Basin (SE Spain). Spanish Journal of Palaeontology, 32 (1), 3-16.

Received 10 October 2016, Accepted 11 January 2017, Published 30 June 2017