Pelagic palaeoecology: the importance of recent constraints on ammonoid palaeobiology and life history


  • Editor: David Hone


A review of fossil evidence supports a pelagic mode of life (in the water column) of ammonoids, but they may have spent their life close to the seabottom (demersal), planktonically, or nektonically depending upon the ontogenetic stage and taxon. There are good indications for a planktonic mode of life of ammonoid hatchlings, but a broad range of reproductive strategies might have existed (egg-laying, fecundity). Isotope and biogeographical studies indicate that some forms migrated or swam for considerable distances, whereas others may have been primarily transported by oceanic currents during early and/or late ontogeny. Diverse ammonoid habitats are also supported by evidence from predator–prey relationships derived from characteristic injuries and exceptional fossil finds, which indicate chiefly predatory or scavenging lifestyles. Sublethal injuries preserved in some ammonoid shells, as well as rare stomach and coprolite contents, provide evidence of predation by other cephalopods, arthropods and various jawed vertebrates. Various lines of evidence suggest that different groups of ammonoids had quite different ecologies, but shell shape alone can only give upper constraints on ammonoid capabilities, a matter that needs to be considered when interpreting their diversity and evolutionary history.