Abstract

A systematic survey of 1863 papers on macrobenthic assemblages reveals that an average of 21% of published Paleozoic papers concern silicified fossils, but that average drops to just 4% for post-Paleozoic papers. During the Paleozoic, silicified fossil occurrences do not significantly correlate with the amount of shelf chert, outcrop area, time, duration of geologic intervals, or carbonate rock volume. This substantial drop in numbers of silicified fossils coincides temporally with increased importance of aragonite faunas following the end-Permian extinctions. However, qualitative measurements of secular changes in abundance and diversity of siliceous sponges are consistent not only with the post-Paleozoic decline in fossil silicification, but also with fluctuations in the amount of silicified fossils throughout the Paleozoic. The facies distribution of silicified fossils in the Permian of West Texas also suggests that the distribution of silicified fossils may reflect the occurrence of siliceous sponges. The decline in silicified fossils after the Permian may be related to a concomitant rise in offshore bedded chert deposition and movement of the locus of biogenic silica formation from nearshore to offshore regions beginning in the Triassic, rather than with the expansion of diatoms in the Cretaceous.

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