Biogeography of early to mid Palaeozoic (Cambrian–Devonian) marine phytoplankton
Published:January 01, 2013
Stewart G. Molyneux, Aurélien Delabroye, Reed Wicander, Thomas Servais, 2013. "Biogeography of early to mid Palaeozoic (Cambrian–Devonian) marine phytoplankton", Early Palaeozoic Biogeography and Palaeogeography, D. A. T. Harper, T. Servais
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Early to mid Palaeozoic marine phytoplankton are represented by acritarchs and associated forms, which had a global distribution from the early Cambrian to the early Carboniferous (Mississippian). Palaeozoic phytoplankton assemblages show varying degrees of cosmopolitanism and endemism through time. A high degree of cosmopolitanism was evidently characteristic of the Cambrian and much of the Late Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian, but provincialism was more marked in the Early Ordovician and Hirnantian (latest Ordovician), the latter at a time of major palaeoenvironmental perturbations. Distribution patterns of Palaeozoic phytoplankton are attributed to a number of interacting factors, including palaeolatitude, palaeotemperature, oceanic circulation patterns, the disposition of continents, differentiation between oceanic and cratonic (distal–proximal) assemblages, and sedimentary environments and facies. There are indications that biogeographical ranges of taxa shift over time. Moving our understanding of Palaeozoic phytoplankton biogeography forward requires (1) targeted investigation of regions and time periods for which no or little data exist, (2) quantitative analysis of data to investigate how similarity between regions varies through time and how this might correlate with other datasets such as carbon isotope stratigraphy or sea-level, and (3) rigorous application of well-defined time slices to compare coeval assemblages, at least within the limits of resolution.
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Early Palaeozoic Biogeography and Palaeogeography
The Early Palaeozoic was a critical interval in the evolution of marine life on our planet. Through a window of some 120 million years, the Cambrian Explosion, Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, End Ordovician Extinction and the subsequent Silurian Recovery established a steep trajectory of increasing marine biodiversity that started in the Late Proterozoic and continued into the Devonian. Biogeography is a key property of virtually all organisms; their distributional ranges, mapped out on a mosaic of changing palaeogeography, have played important roles in modulating the diversity and evolution of marine life. This Memoir first introduces the content, some of the concepts involved in describing and interpreting palaeobiogeography, and the changing Early Palaeozoic geography is illustrated through a series of time slices. The subsequent 26 chapters, compiled by some 130 authors from over 20 countries, describe and analyse distributional and in many cases diversity data for all the major biotic groups plotted on current palaeogeographic maps. Nearly a quarter of a century after the publication of the ‘Green Book’ (Geological Society, London, Memoir 12, edited by McKerrow and Scotese), improved stratigraphic and taxonomic data together with more accurate, digitized palaeogeographic maps, have confirmed the central role of palaeobiogeography in understanding the evolution of Early Palaeozoic ecosystems and their biotas.