Authors: David R. Cordie, Stephen Q. Dornbos & Pedro J. Marenco
Publication Type: Article
Source: Facies 66, 5 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10347-019-0589-9
Abstract: Archaeocyathan sponges were the dominant metazoan framework builders during Series 2 of the Cambrian. After their near extinction during the Toyonian stage (middle Stage 4), this important ecological role was eventually filled by robustly skeletonized lithistid sponges. However, the exact timing of ecological restructuring is not well understood and was likely not contemporaneous across different paleocontinents. For example, reefs from the Wuliuan of China appear to show rapid replacement of archaeocyaths with lithistid sponges, yet the earliest occurrence of lithistids in Laurentia is not until the early Furongian. In this study, we explore the Mule Spring Limestone of Nevada, which contains shallow water carbonate environments from the immediate aftermath of the regional archaeocyathan extinction, for signs of reef-building activity. Within this formation, we find evidence of sparse microbial-built leolites and some potentially poorly preserved metazoan organisms. However, the totality of our field observations and thin-section point counts suggest that there was no substantial reef-building activity by either microbial or metazoan organisms within our study locality. Our data suggest the occurrence of a local reef eclipse during this interval for the locality investigated. We also incorporate geochemical proxies to determine paleoredox conditions, which suggest well-oxygenated marine conditions through the period of interest. Lack of hardground substrate is proposed as the cause for this gap in the reef record. These results show that a temporary loss of framework-building activity occurred after the regional extinction of archaeocyaths and demonstrates the ecological impact of losing framework builders on a reef environment.