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Keywords:

  • Taphonomy;
  • vertebrates;
  • petrography;
  • Triassic;
  • Paraná Basin;
  • paleoclimatology

Skulls and limb bones of reptiles from Mid-Triassic rocks in southern Brazil show striking morphological and volumetric differences among specimens from the same taxonomic group; this is caused by early calcite cementation. Petrographic analysis of 40 thin sections of selected fossil bones demonstrates that the main agent of fossilization was precipitation of calcite and minor hematite in the pores of bones during early burial mineralization. The framework of the bones has been broken and replaced by calcite (and hematite), beginning in the spongy inner part of the bone (the cancellous bone) and gradually extending into the compact external layers. Three taphonomic groups of fossil bones are recognized: I – those almost entirely retaining their original structure and shape; II – those whose internal structure is destroyed, but which still have solid outer ‘bone surface’, and III – those composed of fragments of bone apatite ‘floating’ in a carbonate matrix. Destruction of the bone structure was caused by the displacive force of calcite crystallization, which typically occurs at shallow burial, during early diagenesis. This process occurs in the vadose zone and requires markedly alternating wet and dry seasons, which indicates a semi-arid paleoclimate for the south Brazilian Mid-Triassic, an inference consistent with other paleoclimatic data. Diagenesis can significantly alter the shape and size of bones and cause considerable morphological variation within the same fossil group, possibly leading to taxonomic misinterpretation.