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Abstract

The short-lived end-Ordovician Hirnantian glaciation allied to marine mass extinction is variously considered as a short-lived event or as the peak of long-drawn-out climatic cooling through at least late Ordovician–early Silurian times. Evidence from Early Palaeozoic facies, faunas and stable isotope excursions used to interpret climatic cooling events ranges farther, from late Mid-Cambrian to late Silurian times. Glacigenic sediments, structures and geomorphology provide direct evidence of glacial episodes. Cool-water carbonate deposition, which is particularly widespread during the late Ordovician Boda event in high-latitude peri-Gondwana–Gondwana, and beyond into mid–low palaeolatitudes, is interpreted as indicating global cooling, not warming as has been proposed. Such carbonates also characterize mid-latitude continents widely at horizons earlier in the Ordovician, and more locally in the mid-Silurian in high-latitude Gondwana. Cool-water carbonate mounds have distinctive facies-controlled mound faunas across palaeocontinents. Other facies evidence for palaeoclimates includes black shale deposition, including deglacial organic-rich ‘hot shales’, which indicate transgression in epeiric seas, and sea-level curves interpreted from facies and faunal successions. Correlation is shown between facies evidence and positive C isotope excursions, from which cyclicities are apparent. The possible interface of orbitally controlled rhythms is considered against evolving palaeobiogeography, and changes in global sea level and in pCO2. Facies and faunal evidence from peri-Gondwanan terranes (Armorica, Central Europe, Alborz) is assessed with that from Gondwana (mostly North Africa, South America) and correlatives in Avalonia, Baltica and Laurentia to establish a wider picture of early Palaeozoic cooling events.

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