(Table 1) Quantitative analysis of mollusk taxa from surface sediment samples in the Golfe d'Arguin

Ecological and taxonomic study of the mollusk-rich fauna of the Golfe d'Arguin, North Mauritania, investigates the various environmental influences affecting this tropical shelf. The upwelling of nutrient-rich waters leads to a highly productive environment under tropical conditions. The resulting mixed carbonate-siliciclastic sediment contains a large portion of calcareous components produced by heterotrophic organisms--e.g., mollusks, foraminifers, worms, barnacles--that are reworked on the open shelf. On the basis of mollusk assemblages, six taphocoenoses are defined, all being characterized by a mixed fauna of tropical (e.g., Tellina densestriata), subtropical (e.g., Macoma cumana) and temperate (e.g., Spisula subtruncata) species. Differences between the assemblages are related to the medium--grain size ranging from mud to gravel--that results from local hydrodynamic conditions and water depth. Among carbonate grains, Donax burnupi shells are very abundant in the swell-exposed, northern part of the Golfe d'Arguin and reflect the tropical to subtropical, high-energy, and high-nutrient waters. Mollusk assemblages are demonstrated to be a sensitive tool for deciphering complex environmental conditions in sedimentary archives.

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