Abstract

The Upper Ordovician (mid-Ashgill) Xiazhen and Changwu formations in the Zhejiang–Jiangxi border region of southeastern China contain an abundant and diverse suite of brachiopods. A cluster analysis of 59 key samples from 180 collections (over 23 000 specimens) allowed delineation of eight distinct brachiopod communities, herein named the Ectenoglossa minor Community, the Eospirifer praecursor Community, the Ovalospira dichotoma Community, the Antizygospira liquanensis – Sowerbyella sinensis Community, the Kassinella shiyangensis Community, the Altaethyrella zhejiangensis Community, the Tcherskidium jiangshanensis Community and the Foliomena folium Community. These communities occur predominantly in limey, clayey, to silty mudstone facies, similar to Ziegler’s Early Silurian brachiopod communities in the Welsh Borderland. On the basis of lithological, faunal, and paleogeographical evidence, the eight communities are interpreted to have distributed along an onshore–offshore gradient from BA1 to BA6 settings on the northeastern margin of the Zhe-Gan Platform. In a broad paleo-embayment and mixed carbonate–siliciclastic shelf setting, the distribution of the eight brachiopod communities appears to have been controlled primarily by water depth because a given brachiopod community can be found in different lithofacies. Substrate types, however, must have played an important role, as some of the communities show preferred lithofacies. This study shows that the ecological zonation and community organization of the Late Ordovician pre-extinction brachiopods were similar to those of Early Silurian post-extinction brachiopods, although pronounced brachiopod provincialism during the Ashgill makes it difficult to directly correlate these communities with coeval brachiopod communities reported from other paleo-plates.

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