Geological Setting and Paleoecology of the Upper Cretaceous Bench 19 Marine Vertebrate Bonebed at Bentiaba, Angola

Strganac, C., Jacobs L., Polcyn M., Mateus O., Myers T., Araújo R., Fergunson K. M., Gonçalves A. O., Morais M. L., Schulp A. S., da Tavares T. S., & Salminen J. (2015).  Geological Setting and Paleoecology of the Upper Cretaceous Bench 19 Marine Vertebrate Bonebed at Bentiaba, Angola. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences. 94(1), 121-136.


The Bench 19 Bonebed at Bentiaba, Angola, is a unique concentration of marine vertebrates preserving six species of mosasaurs in sediments best correlated by magnetostratigraphy to chron C32n.1n between 71.4 and 71.64 Ma. The bonebed formed at a paleolatitude near 24°S, with an Atlantic width at that latitude approximating 2700 km, roughly half that of the current width. The locality lies on an uncharacteristically narrow continental shelf near transform faults that controlled the coastal outline of Africa in the formation of the South Atlantic Ocean. Biostratigraphic change through the Bentiaba section indicates that the accumulation occurred in an ecological time dimension within the 240 ky bin delimited by chron 32n.1n. The fauna occurs in a 10 m sand unit in the Mocuio Formation with bones and partial skeletons concentrated in, but not limited to, the basal 1–2 m. The sediment entombing the fossils is an immature feldspathic sand shown by detrital zircon ages to be derived from nearby granitic shield rocks. Specimens do not appear to have a strong preferred orientation and they are not concentrated in a strand line. Stable oxygen isotope analysis of associated bivalve shells indicates a water temperature of 18.5°C. The bonebed is clearly mixed with scattered dinosaur and pterosaur elements in a marine assemblage. Gut contents, scavenging marks and associated shed shark teeth in the Bench 19 Fauna indicate biological association and attrition due to feeding activities. The ecological diversity of mosasaur species is shown by tooth and body-size disparity and by δ13C analysis of tooth enamel, which indicate a variety of foraging areas and dietary niches. The Bench 19 Fauna was formed in arid latitudes along a coastal desert similar to that of modern Namibia on a narrow, tectonically controlled continental shelf, in shallow waters below wave base. The area was used as a foraging ground for diverse species, including molluscivorus Globidens phosphaticus, small species expected near the coast, abundant Prognathodon kianda, which fed on other mosasaurs at Bench 19, and species that may have been transient and opportunistic feeders in the area.

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