Tiering in the Sea – Reefs and Burrows (Late Palaeozoic)

Abstract

Tiering is often considered as a proxy for the ecological complexity of ancient communities. Ancient reefs in the Late Palaeozoic were dominated by microbial communities that formed complex substrate topographies, together with a variety of calcified algae and suspension‐feeding metazoans that populated open and cryptic surfaces. Tiering in epifaunal communities increased significantly in the Ordovician to form complex tiered communities that persisted throughout the Palaeozoic. By contrast, infaunal tiering developed slowly, with occupation of deeper depths being achieved only by the Lower Carboniferous.

Post‐Permian mass extinction epibenthic and infaunal biotas were of very low diversity, and composed of small‐sized, low‐tiered suspension‐feeding opportunists. Epifaunal communities increased in complexity and tiering after ∼1 million years as crinoids and bryozoans returned. Complexity and depth of burrowing communities only returned to pre‐crisis levels by the Middle Triassic.

Key Concepts:

  • Tiering is considered as a proxy for the ecological complexity of ancient communities.

  • Late Palaeozoic reefs and mud mounds bore complex substrate topographies produced in part by microbial carbonate production: these supported diverse and well‐tiered open and cryptic communities that persisted to the end of the Permian.

  • Infaunal tiering developed slowly from the Ordovician, with occupation of deeper depths being achieved only by the Lower Carboniferous.

  • Post‐Permian mass extinction epibenthic and infaunal biotas consisted of very low diversity, small‐sized and low‐tiered communities.

  • Epifaunal communities increased in complexity and tiering as crinoids and bryozoans returned. Infaunal communities saw the return of suspension feeders and finally crustaceans, but the size and depth of burrowing communities only returned to pre‐crisis levels by the Middle Triassic.

Keywords: history of reefs; diversification of habitats; burrowing depths

Figure 1.

Reconstruction of Mississippian Muleshoe Mud Mound community, New Mexico, USA. 1, Automicrite; 2 and 3, Fenestrate bryozoans; 4, Crinoids; 5, Fenestrate bryozoan roofing cavity; 6, Synsedimentary cement; 7, Geopetal internal sediment; 8, Intra‐mound sediment; 9, Inter‐mound sediment and 10, Sponge. From James and Wood . Courtesy J Sibbick.

Figure 2.

Reconstruction of the Upper Permian Capitan Reef. (a) Platy sponge community: 1, Gigantospongia discoforma (platy sponge); 2, solitary and branching sphinctozoan sponges; 3, Archaeolithoporella (encrusting algae?); 4, microbial micrite and 5, cement botryoids. (b) Frondose bryozoan‐sponge community: 1, frondose bryozoans (Polypora sp. and Goniopora sp.); 2, solitary sphinctozoan sponges; 3, Archaeolithoporella (encrusting algae?); 4, microbial micrite; 5, cement botryoids and 6, sediment (grainstone‐packstone). From Wood . Courtesy J Sibbick.

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References

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Further Reading

Ausich WI and Bottjer DJ (1985) Phanerozoic tiering in suspension‐feeding communities on soft substrata: implications for diversity. In: Valentine JW (ed.) Phanerozoic Diversity Patterns: Profiles in Macroevolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bambach RK (1985) Classes and adaptive variety: the ecology of diversification in marine faunas through the Phanerozoic. In: Valentine JW (ed.) Phanerozoic Diversity Patterns: Profiles in Macroevolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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How to Cite close
Wood, Rachel A(Sep 2010) Tiering in the Sea – Reefs and Burrows (Late Palaeozoic). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001668.pub2]