Biological controls upon the physical taphonomy of exceptionally preserved salamanders from the Miocene of Rubielos de Mora, northeast Spain








Maria E. McNamara* [], Patrick J. Orr [], and Tom Manzocchi [], UCD School of Geological Sciences, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland; *Current address: Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8109, USA; Luis Alcalá [], Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel-Dinópolis, Avda. Sagunto s/n, 44002 Teruel, Aragón, Spain; Pere Anadón [], Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Institut de Ciències de la Terra ‘Jaume Almera’, Lluís Solé i Sabarís s/n 08028, Barcelona, Spain; Enrique Peñalver [], Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, C/Ríos Rosas 23, E-28003, Madrid, Spain; manuscript received on 24/9/2010; manuscript accepted on 01/4/2011.


McNamara, M.E., Orr, P.J., Manzocchi, T., Alcalá, L., Anadón, P. & Peñalver, E. 2011: Biological controls upon the physical taphonomy of exceptionally preserved salamanders from the Miocene of Rubielos de Mora, northeast Spain. Lethaia, Vol. 45, pp. 210–226.

The middle Miocene Rubielos de Mora Konservat-Lagerstätte of northeast Spain is hosted within profundal, finely laminated, lacustrine mudstones. The diverse biota includes abundant salamanders. Most individuals died during separate episodes and sank rapidly postmortem. Specimens are typically preserved in dorso-ventral aspect, the most hydrodynamically stable orientation. The near-cylindrical morphology of the body, however, allowed some carcasses to settle in or subsequently re-orientate into, lateral orientations. Loss of skeletal elements (i.e. reduced completeness) reflects their location within the body and followed a distal to proximal trend. Two stages are identified: initial loss of a small number of phalanges, followed by loss of more proximal limb bones plus additional phalanges. Disarticulation is more complex: it occurred via several mechanisms (notably, abdominal rupture and re-orientation of part of the body and limbs during decay) and shows no consistent pattern among specimens. The physical taphonomy of the salamanders is controlled predominantly by intrinsic biological factors, i.e. the geometry of the body and of individual skeletal elements, the orientation, inherent strength and location of specific joints and the extent to which soft tissues, particularly the skin, persist during decay. These biological factors probably control patterns of physical taphonomy of other fossil tetrapods with a similar skeletal configuration. □Articulation, completeness, Konservat-Lagerstätten, orientation, quantitative taphonomy, salamanders.