Unusual preservation of late Quaternary millipedes from Jamaica

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Abstract

The first terrestrial arthropods recorded from the Jamaican fossil record are millipedes (Diplopoda), representing at least three species, from a late Pleistocene or Holocene cave deposit. Taxa identified include Rhinocricus sp. or spp., aff Chondrotropis sp. and Caraibodesmus verrucosus (Pocock). The associated fauna includes diverse vertebrates and gastropods, with rare isopods, nonmarine crab claws and ostracodes. Preservation of millipedes has been enabled by calcite coating, lining and impregnating the chitinous exoskeleton, which had a high original calcium content and acted as a nucleus for precipitation. Delicate structures such as limbs, antennae, gonopods and eyes may all be preserved. This preservation has been facilitated by the bottle-shaped cave with an opening at its apex, the surrounding limestone, the clastic infill, and the seasonality of precipitation with very high rainfalls during tropical storms and hurricanes. Millipedes most probably drowned in the cave during storms and formed a nucleus for the precipitation of calcite from solution. This suite of conditions is most likely to occur in the tropics. □Quaternary, caves, Jamaica, millipedes, Diplopoda, preservation, diagenesis.

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