Color Patterns in Ammonoids

  • Royal H. Mapes
  • Richard Arnold Davis
Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI, volume 13)


A color pattern in an ammonoid was first reported and illustrated by d’Orbigny in 1842 (p. 185, Pl. 45, Fig. 4). He recognized that the pattern preserved on the shell of a specimen of Asteroceras stellare (at that time known as Ammonites stellaris) from the Lower Jurassic was a remnant of a biologically produced color pattern emplaced by the animal when it was alive. Furthermore, he recognized that these kinds of patterns were observable only on well-preserved specimens. These brief observations laid the groundwork for the now generally recognized conclusions that color patterns are scarce on ammonoids and that they have paleobiological significance. Since d’Orbigny’s time, there have been periodic reports of ammonoid color patterns (see Table I), and some workers have attempted to integrate this information into a greater understanding of the biology of ammonoids.


Color Pattern Internal Mold Body Chamber Organic Pigment Transverse Band 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arkell, W. J., 1957, Introduction to Mesozoic Ammonoidea, in: Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part L, Mollusco 4 ( R. C. Moore, ed.), Geological Society of America and University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS, pp. L80–L129.Google Scholar
  2. Bardhan, S., Jana, S. K., and Datta, K., 1993, Preserved color pattern of a phylloceratid ammonoid from the Jurassic Chari Formation, Kutch, India, and its functional significance, J. Paleontol. 67 (1): 140–143.Google Scholar
  3. Blumer, M., 1965, Organic pigments; their long-term fate, Science 149: 722–726.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boardman, D. R. III, Mapes, R. H., Yancy, T. E., and Malinky, J. M., 1984, A new model for the depth-related allogenic community succession within North American Pennsylvanian cyclothems and implications on the black shale problem, in: Limestones of the Mid-Continent (N. J. Hyne, ed.), Tulsa Geol. Soc. Spec. Pub. 2: 144–182.Google Scholar
  5. Boucot, A. J., 1990, Evolutionary Paleobiology of Behavior and Coevolution, Elsevier, Amsterdam. Burtt, E. H., Jr., 1979, Tips on wings and other things, in: The Behavioral Significance of Color (E. H. Burtt, Jr., ed.), Garland STPM Press, New York, pp. 75–110.Google Scholar
  6. Comfort, A., 1951, The pigmentation of molluscan shells, Biol. Rev. Comb. Phil. Soc. 26 (3): 285–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cowen, R., Gertman, R., and Wiggett, G., 1973, Camouflage patterns in Nautilus and their implications for cephalopod paleobiology, Lethaia 6 (2): 201–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Doguzhaeva, L., and Mutvei, H., 1993, Structural features in Cretaceous ammonoids indicative of semi-internal or internal shells, in: The Ammonoidea: Environment, Ecology and Evolutionary Change, Systematics Association Special Volume 47 ( M. R. House, ed.), Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 99–114.Google Scholar
  9. d’Orbigny, A., 1842, Paléontologie Française. Terraines Oolitiques ou Jurassiques. I. Céphalopodes, Masson, Paris.Google Scholar
  10. Foerste, A. F., 1930, The color-patterns of fossil cephalopods and brachiopods, with notes on gastropods and pelecypods, Contrib. Mus. Paleont. Univ. Mich. 3 (6): 109–150.Google Scholar
  11. Fox, D. L., 1972, Chromatology of animal skeletons, Am. Sci. 60: 436–447.Google Scholar
  12. Gordon, M., Jr., 1965, Carboniferous cephalopods of Arkansas, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 460, U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  13. Grégoire, C., 1987, Ultrastructure of the Nautilus shell, in: Nautilus—The Biology and Paleobiology of a Living Fossil ( W. B. Saunders and N. H. Landman, eds.), Plenum Press, New York, pp. 463–486.Google Scholar
  14. Greppin, E., 1898, Description des fossiles du Bajocien Supérieur des environs de Bâle. Mém. Soc. Paléont. Suisse 25: 1–52.Google Scholar
  15. Heller, F., 1977, Ein Pleuroceras aff. solare (PHILL) mit gut erhaltener Farbzeichnung aus den Amaltheentonen Frankens, Geol. B1. Nordost-Bayern Angrenzende Geb. 27 (3–4): 161–168.Google Scholar
  16. Hewitt, R. A., Checa, A., Westermann, G. E. G., and Zaborski. P. M., 1991, Chamber growth in ammonites inferred from colour markings and naturally etched surfaces of Cretaceous vascoceratids from Nigeria, Lethaia 24 (3): 271–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoare, R. D., 1978, Annotated bibliography on preservation of color patterns on invertebrate fossils, Comp. Sig. Gam. Eps. 55 (3): 39–63.Google Scholar
  18. Hollingworth, N. T. J., and Barker, M. J., 1991, Colour pattern preservation in the fossil record: Taphonomy and diagenetic significance, in: The Processes of Fossilization (S. K. Donovan, ed.), Belhaven Press, London, pp. 105–119.Google Scholar
  19. House, M. R., 1971, The goniatite wrinkle-layer, Smithson. Contrib. Paleobiol. 3: 23–32.Google Scholar
  20. Jeffery, D. L., Hoare, R. D., Mapes, R. H., and Brown, C. J., 1994, Gastropods (Mollusca) from the Imo Formation (Mississippian, Chesterian) of North-Central Arkansas, J. Paleontol. 68 (1): 58–79.Google Scholar
  21. Kennedy, W. J., and Cobban, W. A., 1976, Aspects of ammonite biology, biogeography, and biostratigraphy, Palaeontol. Assoc. Spec. Pap. Palaeontol. 17.Google Scholar
  22. Kennedy, W. J., Klinger, H. C., and Summesberg, H., 1981, Cretaceous faunas from Zululand and Natal, South Africa. Additional observations on the ammonite subfamily Texanitinae Collignon, 1948, Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 86 (4): 115–155.Google Scholar
  23. Kobluk, D. R., and Mapes, R. H., 1989, The fossil record, function, and possible origins of shell color-patterns in Paleozoic marine invertebrates, Palaios 4 (1): 63–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lehmann, U., 1990, Ammonoideen—Leben zwischen Skylla und Charybdis, Ferdinand Enke Verlag, Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  25. Manley, E. C., 1977, Unusual pattern preservation in a Liassic ammonite from Dorset, Palaeontology (Lond.) 20 (4): 913–916.Google Scholar
  26. Mapes, R. H., 1979, Carboniferous and Permian Bactritoidea (Cephalopoda) in North America, Univ. Kans. Paleontol. Contrib. Article 64.Google Scholar
  27. Mapes, R. H., and Hoare, R. D., 1987, Annotated bibliography for preservation of color-patterns on invertebrate fossils, Comp. Sig. Gam. Eps. 65: 12–17.Google Scholar
  28. Mapes, R. H., and Sneck, D. A., 1987, The oldest ammonoid “colour” patterns: Description, comparison with Nautilus, and implications, Palaeontology (Lond.) 30 (2): 299–309.Google Scholar
  29. Matsumoto, T., and Hirano, H., 1976, Colour patterns in some Cretaceous ammonites, Palaeontol. Soc. Jpn. Trans. Proc. N. S. 102: 334–342.Google Scholar
  30. Neuffer, 0., 1971, Nachweis von Farbungsmustern an tertiaren Bivalven unter UV–Licht, HeinzTobien Festschrift Hess. Landesamt Bodenforsch. Abh. 60: 121–129.Google Scholar
  31. Packard, A., 1988, Visual tactics and evolutionary strategies, in: Cephalopods—Present and Past ( J. Wiedmann and J. Kullmann, eds.), Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, pp. 89–103.Google Scholar
  32. Pinna, G., 1972, Presenza di tracce di colore sul guscio di alcune ammoniti della famiglia Amaltheidae Hyatt, 1867, Soc. Ital. Sci. Nat. Mus. Civ. Stor. Nat. Milano Atti. 113 (2): 193–200.Google Scholar
  33. Reyment, R. A., 1957, Über Farbspuren bei einigen Ammoniten, N. Jb. Geol. Paläont. Mh. 7–8: 343–351.Google Scholar
  34. Saunders, W. B., 1973, Upper Mississippian ammonoids from Arkansas and Oklahoma, Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 145.Google Scholar
  35. Saunders, W. B., Manger, W. L., and Gordon, M., Jr., 1977, Upper Mississippian and lower and middle Pennsylvanian ammonoid biostratigraphy of northern Arkansas, Okla. Geol. Surv. Gdbk. 18: 117–137.Google Scholar
  36. Schindewolf, O. H., 1928, Über Farbstreifen bei Amaltheus (Paltopleuroceras) spinatum (Brug.), Paläontol. Z. 10: 136–143.Google Scholar
  37. Schindewolf, O. H., 1931, Nochmals über Farbstreifen bei Amaltheus (Paltopleuroceras) spinatus (Brug.), Paläontol. Z. 13 (4): 284–287.Google Scholar
  38. Seilacher, A., 1972, Divaricate patterns in pelecypod shells, Lethaia 5: 325–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, H. J., 1938, The Cephalopod Fauna of the Buckhorn Asphalt,private edition, distributed by University of Chicago Libraries, Chicago.Google Scholar
  40. Spath, L. E, 1935, On colour-markings in ammonites, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. Ser. 10 15 (87): 395–398.Google Scholar
  41. Squires, R. L.. 1976, Color-pattern of Naticopsis (Naticopsis) wortheniana, Buckhorn Asphalt deposit, Oklahoma, J. Paleontol. 50 (2): 349–350.Google Scholar
  42. Stenzel, H. B., 1964, Living Nautilus, in: Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part K, Mollusco 3 ( R. C. Moore, ed.). Geological Society of America and University of Kansas Press. Lawrence, KS, pp. K59 - K93.Google Scholar
  43. Tanabe, K., and Kanie, Y.. 1978, Colour markings in two species of tetragonitid ammonites from the Upper Cretaceous of Hokkaido, Japan, Sci. Rep. Yokosuka City Mus. 25: 1–6.Google Scholar
  44. Teichert, C., 1964, Morphology of hard parts, in: Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Part K, Mollusca 3 ( R. C. Moore, ed.). Geological Society of America and University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS, pp. K13 - K53.Google Scholar
  45. Tozer, E. T., 1972, Observations on the shell structure of Triassic ammonoids, Palaeontology (Land.) 15 (4): 637–654.Google Scholar
  46. Valenciennes, M. A., 1839, Nouvelles recherches sur le Nautile flambé (Nautilus pompilius Google Scholar
  47. Lam.), Arch. Mus. Nat. Hist. 2:257–314. (The date for this paper is commonly given as 1841;Google Scholar
  48. however, van der Hoeven’s copy is designated “Exemplaire d’auteur” and is dated 1839.) Wilson, E. C., 1975, Light show from beyond the grave, Terra 13(3):10–13.Google Scholar
  49. Windle, D. L., Jr., 1973, Studies in Carboniferous nautiloids: Cyrtocones and annulate orthocones, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Royal H. Mapes
    • 1
  • Richard Arnold Davis
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Physical SciencesCollege of Mount St. JosephCincinnatiUSA

Personalised recommendations