Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 309–327 | Cite as

The role of topography, river size and riverbed grain size on the preservation of riverine mollusk shells

  • Alcemar Rodrigues Martello
  • Carla Bender Kotzian
  • Fernando Erthal
Original paper


The degree to which a group of fossils reflects the original community from which it was derived can be estimated by comparing living communities with locally accumulated dead remains. Such live–dead approaches (LA/DA) can provide important baseline information on the ecological structure of ancient freshwater systems. This study explored variations in composition, richness, evenness and rank-abundance in live and dead mollusk assemblages recovered from the Ibicuí River Basin, southern Brazil. LA/DA was related to topography, river size, and sediment grain size, separated respectively into plain (altitude 0–100 m) versus slope (100–500 m), small versus medium-large stream orders, and gravel versus sand substrate. Positive correlation between LA and DA species composition was significant only in large rivers. Slope areas showed LA/DA species compositions that were significantly different, whereas the communities from sand and gravel substrates were quite similar. Important factors that affected live/dead similarity in the study area included (1) destruction of thin, fragile shells of dead animals by acidic waters that are common in the region, (2) downstream drift of small spherical shells from species common in slope areas, such as Potamolithus sp., and (3) high abundances of invasive species in the local death assemblage, especially in large rivers. High fidelity in large rivers is caused by the presence of favorable habitats for bivalve communities. Coarse sediments are an important driver of macro invertebrate diversity, acting as shell traps that slow the downstream drift of bivalve remains and improve the preservation of fluvial mollusks. The preservation potential of dead assemblages of the Ibicuí River showed that fossil assemblages are useful tools for recognizing ancient riverscapes, such as flat areas with sandy substrates.


Quantitative fidelity Fluvial habitat Spatial scale Bivalve Gastropod Paleoecology 



We thank Maria Cristina Dreher Mansur (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) and Rosane Lanzer (Universidade de Caxias do Sul) for identifications of Pisidium and Ancylini. Special thanks to Andréa Salvarrey, Bruna Braun, Elisangela Secretti, Elzira Floss, Mateus Pires, Nícolas Figueiredo, Roger de Sá, Sarah Freitas and Vanessa Baptista for help during fieldwork. Early versions of this manuscript benefited from discussions with Claudia T. Callil (Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso), Claudio De Francesco (Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata), Luiz U. Hepp (Universidade Regional Integrada at Erechim), and an unknown reviewer. The manuscript also benefited from a careful revision by Mark Brenner (Editor in Chief). This research was part of the doctoral thesis of A. Martello at the UFSM. CAPES provided financial support for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Estadual do ParanáUnião da VitóriaBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biodiversidade AnimalUniversidade Federal de Santa MariaSanta MariaBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Paleontologia e EstratigrafiaUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil

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