Among fossiliferous marine facies, deposits rich in stalked echinoderms, particularly encrinites, have long been suspected to be susceptible to taphonomic biases because intact calyxes are under-represented or masked by disarticulated skeletal debris. In the middle Mississippian Fort Payne Formation of south-central Kentucky, penecontemporaneous crinoid-rich facies are exposed in close proximity along the shores of Lake Cumberland. Crinoidal packstone buildups preserve a broad preservational spectrum, with articulated crinoid calyxes with arms and columns attached, intact calyxes, holdfasts, and long articulated columns, in a matrix of entirely disarticulated crinoidal fragments. Along a 250 m transect across the flanks and crest of this buildup, identification of 563 specimens of crinoids and blastoids revealed a symmetrical distribution of taxa in which the crest was dominated by disparid and camerate crinoids and the flanks were dominated by camerates. Taphonomic analysis of the same transect showed that intact crinoid calyxes with or without attached arms and column occurred across the entire buildup, but nearly complete specimens with attached arms and column were most common on the western flank and less common on the crest and eastern flank. Taxonomic and taphonomic distributions demonstrate a primary ecologic zonation across the buildup with only localized post-mortem dispersal of crinoids. This is the first demonstration of primary ecologic zonation of a crinoid community preserved within a single lithofacies. Depending on depositional and taphonomic circumstances, crinoids are preserved intact close to their living site; understanding these physical and biological processes provides a significant feedback in reconstructing these ancient depositional environments.
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Vol. 34 • No. 11