Fossil embryos and adult Viviparidae from the Early–Middle Pleistocene of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel: ecology, longevity and fecundity

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Abstract

Ashkenazi, S., Klass, K., Mienis, H.K., Spiro, B. & Abel, R. 2010: Fossil embryos and adult Viviparidae from the Early–Middle Pleistocene of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel: ecology, longevity and fecundity. Lethaia, Vol. 43, pp. 116–127.

A unique fossil assemblage of the extinct freshwater viviparids Viviparus apameae galileae and Bellamya sp. with intact embryos enabled the assessment of population ecology parameters applied so far only to recent living populations. The assemblage, from the Early Middle Pleistocene site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, occurs in the sedimentary sequence above the Matuyama Brunhes Boundary (MB boundary) at 0.78 Ma. This fossil assemblage is related to a shoreline habitat that was affected by desiccation during a sudden drop in water level. In both species, the youngest females with embryos had five or more whorls, with heights of >24.8 and >16.1 mm in Viviparus and Bellamya respectively. Comparison of shell height and width, aperture height and width and the ratio of shell height/width indicated that females are significantly longer and larger than the shells without embryos. Longevity was estimated as at least 9 years for Viviparus and 8 years for Bellamya and lifetime fecundity of female viviparids was estimated based on longevity and reproductive period. The high number of reproducing females and high number of embryos indicate favourable habitat and climate conditions for both Viviparidae. The fossil Viviparidae from GBY have the characteristics of organisms that are K-selected by natural selection forces. □Fecundity, fossil embryos, longevity, molluscs, Pleistocene, reproductive output, sexual dimorphism, viviparids.

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