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Schimmel, M., Kowalewski, M. & Coffey, BP. 2011: Traces of predation/parasitism recorded in Eocene brachiopods from the Castle Hayne Limestone, North Carolina, USA. Lethaia, Vol. 45, pp. 274–289.

The Castle Hayne Limestone (Middle Eocene, North Carolina), noted for its diverse macro-invertebrate fossils, was sampled to assess if Early Cenozoic brachiopods from eastern North America record any traces of biotic interactions. Systematic surveys of two North Carolina quarries yielded 494 brachiopods dominated by one species: Plicatoria wilmingtonensis (Lyell and Sowerby, 1845). Despite subtle variations in taphonomy, taxonomy and drilling patterns, the two sampled quarries are remarkably similar in terms of quantitative and qualitative palaeoecological and taphonomic patterns. In both quarries, brachiopods contain frequent drillholes (24.5% specimens drilled). The majority of drillholes were singular, perpendicular to shell surface and drilled from the outside. Ventral valves were drilled slightly more frequently than dorsal ones, but site-selectivity in drilhole location was not evident. Larger brachiopods were drilled significantly more frequently than smaller ones. However, drillhole diameter did not correlate with brachiopod size. The drillholes are interpreted as records of ‘live-live’ biotic interactions, representing either predatory attacks or parasitic infestations or a combination of those two types of interactions. A notable fraction of specimens bear multiple drillholes, which is consistent with either parasitic nature of interactions or frequent failed predatory events. The high drilling frequency reported here reinforces other reports (from other continents and other epochs of the Cenozoic), which suggest that brachiopods may be an important prey or host of drilling organisms in some settings. The number of case studies reporting high frequencies of drilling in brachiopods is still limited and thus insufficient to draw reliable generalizations regarding the causes and consequences of these occasionally intense ecological interactions. □Brachiopods, drilling parasitism, drilling predation, Eocene, North Carolina, taphonomy.