Epi- and endobiontic organisms on Late Jurassic crinoid columns from the Negev Desert, Israel: Implications for co-evolution


[correspondence to: Department of Invertebrates, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024-5192, USA]


Columns of the articulate crinoids Millericrinus and Apiocrinites from the Upper Jurassic (Upper Callovian) Zohar and Matmor formations of the Negev Desert of Israel display abundant encrusting organisms of about ten species, as well as diverse trace fossils produced by endobionts. Pluricolumnals were colonized by epi- and endobiontic organisms both during life and post-mortem. Skeletonized encrusting organisms include abundant ostreid bivalves (which evidently colonized both live and dead crinoid columnals), two types of serpulid worms, encrusting foraminifera, three species of bryozoans, and small encrusting sclerosponges. Several types of borings are present: Trypanites (possibly produced by sipunculids), Gastrochaenolites (crypts of boring lithophagid bivalves), elliptical barnacle? borings, and channel-like annelid? borings. In addition, approximately 16% of the pluricolumnals display circular parabolic embedment pits assignable to the ichnogenus Tremichnus. They are associated with substantial deformation of the containing columnals and were probably the work of host-specific ectoparasitic organisms. Discovery of Tremichnus on Jurassic crinoids extends the range of this trace by almost 100 million years, providing evidence for one of the longest-ranging host-parasite interactions documented thus far (over 200 million years). The relationship of epibionts to the Jurassic crinoids thus ranged from simple utilization of dead hard substrate to probable opportunistic commensalism in forms that colonized the live upright stems, as in some oysters, through host-specific parasitism in the case of Tremichnus.