The nature of taphonomic overprint affecting the fossil records of the regular echinoid Families Cidaridae, Diadematidae, Toxopneustidae and Echinometridae is investigated using a synthesis of actualistic and literature-derived data. The actualistic portion of this study focuses on the following extant members of the four families: Eucidaris tribuloides, Diadema antillarum, Tripneustes ventricosus and Echinometra lucunter. Population censuses of these animals in tropical reef and near-reef environments demonstrate that the distribution of macro- and microscopic skeletal material does not reflect the distribution of the living fauna. Field experiments with freshly-killed carcasses of Eucidaris, Diadema and Echinometra indicate that loss of all organic tissue occurs within six days after death, reducing these echinoids to essentially bleached carcasses.
A stratigraphic and paleontological analysis of 303 samples of Paleocene sediments of the eastern Gulf Coastal Plain of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia provided the basis for a geochronologic, quantitative paleoecologic, and paleoceanographic model.