Recent Vertebrate Carcasses and Their Paleobiological Implications

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Aug 9, 1989 - Nature - 188 pages
The first English translation of Johannes Weigelt's 1927 classic makes available the seminal work in taphonomy, the study of how organisms die, decay, become entombed in sediments, and fossilize over time. Weigelt emphasized the importance of empirical work and made extensive observations of modern carcasses on the Texas Gulf Coast. He applied the results to evidence from the fossil record and demonstrated that an understanding of the postmortem fate of modern animals is crucial to making sound inferences about fossil vertebrate assemblages and their ecological communities.

Weigelt spent sixteen months on the Gulf Coast in the mid-1920s, gathering evidence from the carcasses of cattle and other animals in the early stages of preservation. This book reports his observations. He discusses death and decomposition; classifies various modes of death (drowning, cold, dehydration, fire, mud, quicksand, oil slicks, etc.); documents and analyzes the positions of carcasses; presents detailed data on carcass assemblages at the Smither's Lake site in Texas; and, in a final chapter, makes comparisons to carcass assemblages from the geologic past. He raises questions about whether much of the fossil record is a product of unusual events and, if so, what the implications are for paleoecological studies.

The English edition of Recent Vertebrate Carcasses includes a foreword and a translator's note that comment on Weigelt's life and the significance of his work. The original bibliography has been brought up to date, and, where necessary, updated scientific and place names have been added to the text in brackets. An index of names, places, and subjects is included, and Weigelt's own photographs of carcasses and drawings of skeletons illustrate the text.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

DEATH AND ITS AFTERMATH
3
2 DECOMPOSITION
7
3 PRESERVATION
12
4 THE ROLE OF INSECTS
12
5 WHAT HAPPENS TO CARCASSES LYING ON THE SURFACE OF THE GROUND
13
6 THE EMBEDDING MEDIA
18
MODES OF DEATH
25
2 DEATH DUE TO GASES
29
2 THE LAW OF THE LOWER JAW
82
3 THE PASSIVE POSITION OF WATER CARCASSES
84
4 DISPLACEMENT OF CARCASSES
87
5 FEEDING GROUNDS
89
6 PARTIAL BURIAL
92
8 THE FORMATION OF FACETED REMAINS BY FLOWING WATER
97
9 THE LAW OF THE RIBS
99
10 DESICCATION OF THE CARCASS
100

3 DEATH DUE TO GRASS PRAIRIE AND FOREST FIRES
30
4 DEATH BY DROWNING
32
5 BOGGING DOWN IN MUD
34
6 STOMACH CONTENTS
38
7 DEATH IN QUICKSAND
40
8 BECOMING MIRED IN TIDAL SILTS
42
10 DEATH DUE TO FLOODING
45
11 DEATH DUE TO FLUCTUATION IN SALINITY
49
12 DEATH WHEN BODIES OF WATER DRY UP
50
13 OVERCROWDING OF ANIMALS DURING DROUGHT
55
14 DEATH DUE TO HUNTING
60
15 DEATH DUE TO COLD
67
16 DEATH ON ICE
74
LAWS GOVERNING POSITIONS OF RECENT AND FOSSIL VERTEBRATE CARCASSES
77
11 HOOKED BENT AND CURVED CARCASSES
105
THE CARCASS ASSEMBLAGE AT SMITHERS LAKE AND ITS ORIGIN
119
2 THE LANDSCAPE AT SMITHERS LAKE
128
3 LAWS GOVERNING FORMATION OF STRANDLINES
132
4 GANOID FISHES AT SMITHERS LAKE
135
5 TURTLE CARCASSES AT SMITHERS LAKE
145
6 ALLIGATOR CARCASSES AT SMITHERS LAKE
146
CARCASS ASSEMBLAGES AND CONCENTRATIONS IN THE GEOLOGIC PAST
151
Conclusion
165
Figures
167
Plates
168
References
249
Index
177
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information