Abstract

Study of the lower Silurian black shale succession of the Prague Synform has enabled detailed insight into graptolite faunal dynamics and diversity trends from the mid-Aeronian diversity maximum through to the late Aeronian crisis. Graptolite diversity decreased from 33 taxa in the Lituigraptus convolutus Biozone to 17 taxa in the upper part of the Stimulograptus sedgwickii Biozone and newly erected Lituigraptus rastrum Biozone. The graptolite assemblages of the latter biozones exhibit low species richness along with high dominance. Many graptolite species that became extinct in the early part of the sedgwickii Zone were promptly replaced by new forms. In the later part of the sedgwickii Zone, however, replacement of extinct species by new forms considerably decelerated. The increased rate of graptolite extinction recorded in the convolutus–sedgwickii biozone boundary beds coincided with subtle changes in black shale lithologies and a positive shift in δ13Corg (of 2.2 ‰) compared to baseline values. Sea-level drawdown can be inferred from siltstones and/or temporary nondeposition in the middle sedgwickii Zone. This level also sees total organic carbon (TOC) fluctuations and a strong positive δ13Corg excursion with a peak shift of at least 7 ‰. The sedgwickii Event exhibits substantial reorganization of the graptolite fauna, its taxonomic impoverishment and concomitant increase in species dominance rather than a sudden collapse of the pre-extinction assemblage. Associated changes in lithology, TOC and the pronounced δ13Corg excursion suggest a relatively extended and probably multi-phase period of stressed conditions that affected the pelagic realm inhabited by graptolites in the course of the late Aeronian interval.

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