Abstract

Over 20 specimens of the new genus and species Nunavutospongia irregulara, an irregular stump-like to columnar, or fan- to blade-shaped, hexactinosid hexactinellid sponge, have been recovered from exposures of the Upper Cretaceous upper Kanguk Formation on Devon Island, Nunavut Territory, in the Canadian High Arctic. The species and genus are characterized by dermal surfaces with prominent radial, irregularly vertical, rib-like flanges that have a single linear series of separated oscula perforating their rounded crests. The thin, but persistent dermal layer of fused hexactine-based spicules has rays thicker than those of the similarly fused endosomal, quadrangularly arranged, hexactines of the principal skeleton. Ostia of coarse exhalant canals, and finer inhalant canals, are extensively and uniformly developed, but irregularly placed, in the dermal layer. A thin, less prominent, gastral layer of thickened spicules lines the short, internally tapered spongocoel openings. The skeleton exposed in the commonly upward-arcuate base of each sponge has a radiate structure that does not have significant ostia. The new genus is tentatively included in the Family Cribrospongiidae Roemer, 1864, within the Order Hexactinosa Schrammen, 1903. The specimens were found in unconsolidated fine-grained glauconitic sediments along with other fossils such as fish teeth, bird bones, lingulids, coprolites, and wood. The sedimentology, stratigraphic context, and co-occurrence with fossil wood suggest that these sponges inhabited the neritic zone. As such, they would have been subject to polar light regimes, because paleogeographic reconstructions indicate that Devon Island was above the Arctic Circle during the Late Cretaceous. The distribution of the specimens suggests that they were solitary sponges that used their arcuate bases to colonize sandy substrates or biotic debris.

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