Ecology/taphonomy data entry tip sheet

Drafted by the Taphonomy/Paleoecology Working Group, September 24, 2001

Revised September 22, 2003

Authors: Behrensmeyer, Fürsich, Gastaldo, Kidwell, Kosnik, Kowalewski, Plotnick, Rogers

Skeletal composition 1 and 2
These values refer to the ORIGINAL composition of the skeleton, not the preserved composition. For the latter, see "Replacement Minerals" on the Main Collections Form. The first entry should be the dominant composition, the second is reserved for secondary components, e.g., sponges that have siliceous and CaCO3 skeletal elements. Quotes indicate a value that should be used only if a more specific value cannot be determined. "Entirely soft tissue" refers to organisms such as jellyfish and flatworms. The calcite categories are divided this way:

Adult size
Check entire body if the size estimate pertains to the entire body instead of a part. Otherwise, enter the standardized name of the body part whose size is being described (e.g., "calyx"; "M1"; "leaf"). Provide size information using the millimeter categories in the pull-down menus for length, width, height, area, or volume. For example, for volume, an organism that is .03 mm on a side would be in the smallest category and a whale 30 m x 5m x 5m would be in the >10^8 to < 10^9 category. Applies to measures of whole body size, e.g., maximum axial length or other maximum dimension, maximum area of plan view projection, volume calculated as length x width x height.

Leaf size categories translate as follows (based on placements of geometric means):

 Leaf category Minimum area PBDB area category
  Leptophyll < 25 mm^2 1.0 to < 10 mm^2
  Nanophyll > 25 mm^2 10 to < 100 mm^2
  Microphyll > 225 mm^2 100 to < 1000 mm^2
  Notophyll > 2025 mm^2 1000 to < 10^4 mm^2
  Mesophyll > 4500 mm^2 1000 to < 10^4 mm^2
  Macrophyll > 18225 mm^2 10^4 to < 10^5 mm^2
  Megaphyll > 164025 mm^2 10^5 to < 10^6 mm^2

*Relative thickness
Thick versus intermediate versus thin. Refer to visual images to judge this character. Thick shells have a high ratio of overall (average) thickness relative to body size, thin shells have a low ratio of thickness relative to body size.

*Internal skeletal architecture
This only applies to original architecture of biomineralized tissues. We regard brachiopod shells with punctae as porous. Bivalve and gastropod shells generally have compact skeletal tissue (watch for exceptions such as pycnodont oysters that display porous shell structure).

*3-D form
Overall shape of the taphonomically relevant major part (could be the whole organism). For bivalves, consider the shape of single valves, for brachiopods, use shape of both valves together. This is justified on the basis of which components of the organisms are typically subjected to the majority of taphonomic processes. The categories can be defined geometrically in terms of maximum length (X), width (Y), and height, which can be about the same (~), unequal (>), or very unequal (>>). Geometrical definitions are given in brackets. (Note that the following terms were formulated for use in Project 1 of the Taphonomy Working Group and may not be readily applicable to organisms other than bivalves, gastropods, and brachiopods.)

*Skeletal reinforcement
This is meant to apply to features of shells but could also pertain to leaves, scutes, carapaces. If shell is smooth and lacks skeletal reinforcements, check this box "smooth" and ignore pull-down menus for skeletal reinforcement features. Options for each pull-down menu are major, minor, absent. Major features are comparable to or greater than the thickness of the shell and should cover a notable portion of the shell. Minor features are less than the shell thickness and cover small areas of the shells. (Note that the following terms were formulated for use in Project 1 of the Taphonomy Working Group and may not be readily applicable to organisms other than bivalves, gastropods, and brachiopods.)

Adult polymorphism/dimorphism?
Applies to distinctive dimorphs or polymorphs that reflect sexual dimorphism or other morphological variation in adults due to possible causes such as population density, temperature, nutrient supply, and other external environmental factors. This does not relate to normal phenotypic variation in a population.

The different ways that organisms can grow into adults. Accretion applies to body types that grow incrementally, as in bivalves and solitary corals. Both molting and addition of parts applies to arthropods. Plants grow both by accretion and by addition of parts. Modification of parts and accretion applies to vertebrates. Includes astogeny of colonial organisms, and for these check "addition of parts" in addition to any other appropriate boxes.

Social grouping
Designates the dominant type of social organization among individuals in a population. Colonial organisms are physically attached to each other in a structural framework, e.g., bryozoans, corals. Social insects and oyster banks should be classified as gregarious rather than colonial.

Enter yes if individuals can develop from pre-existing individuals without sexual reproduction. All prokaryotes, some aphids, some beetles, and some plants are clonal; some corals and bryozoans can produce clones.

General environment
Characterizes the overall life habitat of adult individuals of the taxon.

Characterizes the dominant locomotory capabilities of adults. Stationary refers to fixed in place without capability of changing location (relation to substrate), e.g., vascular plants, corals, bryozoa, barnacles, oysters. Facultatively mobile organisms can change location but do so infrequently, e.g., crinoids, some infaunal bivalves. Floating organisms and epibionts on living mobile organisms are passively mobile. Organisms that move habitually, of their own volition, are actively mobile.

Is the adult organism attached to a substrate?

Is the organism an epibiont? Any organism that is attached to another organism during part of its life cycle is an epibiont.

Life habit
Descriptors for specific mode of animal life in relation to substrate and plant physiognomy. Upper blocks of terms refers to aquatic animals, second block to terrestrial vertebrates, and third block to plants.

Diet/feeding mode
The primary biological or physical source of energy for an organism. Not meant to include all active feeding strategies.



Cloning or budding.

Young retained internally after birth.

Dispersal (gametes)
What carries the gametes? This does NOT include clones. "Animal" includes pollen vectors.

Dispersal (larvae/seeds/juveniles)
What disperses the offspring? Does not include clones.

*Note: These fields apply in particular to a project to assess taphonomic durability through the Phanerozoic for bivalves, gastropods, and brachiopods but may be used for other taxonomic groups where appropriate.