High frequency of drill holes in brachiopods from the Pliocene of Algeria and its ecological implications



The fossil record holds a wealth of ecological data, including data on biotic interactions. For example, holes in the skeletons of invertebrates produced by drilling activities of their enemies are widely used for exploring the intensity of such interactions through time because they are common and easily distinguished from non-biotic holes or holes produced by other types of interactions. Such drill holes have been described in numerous studies of Palaeozoic brachiopods but rarely in those focusing on brachiopods of the post-Palaeozoic, a striking pattern given that in the late Mesozoic and Cenozoic drilling gastropods diversified and frequencies of drilled molluscs increased dramatically. During the past several years, however, drilled brachiopods were reported in several studies of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, suggesting that this phenomenon may be more common than has been previously assumed. Here we report on drilled brachiopods from a Pliocene locality in Algeria where 90 of 261 (34.5%) specimens of Megerlia truncata show evidence of predatory drilling. These data confirm that Cenozoic drilling frequencies of brachiopods may be locally high and, when taken together with other published data, that drilling frequencies are highly heterogeneous in space and time.