Ammonite habitat revealed via isotopic composition and comparisons with co-occurring benthic and planktonic organisms
Sessa et al
Ammonites are among the best-known fossils of the Phanerozoic, yet their habitat is poorly understood. Three common ammonite families (Baculitidae, Scaphitidae, and Sphenodiscidae) co-occur with well-preserved planktonic and benthic organisms at the type locality of the upper Maastrichtian Owl Creek Formation, offering an excellent opportunity to constrain their depth habitats through isotopic comparisons among taxa. Based on sedimentary evidence and the micro- and macrofauna at this site, we infer that the 9-m-thick sequence was deposited at a paleodepth of 70–150 m. Taxa present throughout the sequence include a diverse assemblage of ammonites, bivalves, and gastropods, abundant benthic foraminifera, and rare planktonic foraminifera. No stratigraphic trends are observed in the isotopic data of any taxon, and thus all of the data from each taxon are considered as replicates. Oxygen isotope-based temperature estimates from the baculites and scaphites overlap with those of the benthos and are distinct from those of the plankton. In contrast, sphenodiscid temperature estimates span a range that includes estimates of the planktonic foraminifera and of the warmer half of the benthic values. These results suggest baculites and scaphites lived close to the seafloor, whereas sphenodiscids sometimes inhabited the upper water column and/or lived closer to shore. In fact, the rarity and poorer preservation of the sphenodiscids relative to the baculites and scaphites suggests that the sphenodiscid shells may have only reached the Owl Creek locality by drifting seaward after death.