Understanding the influence of aragonite/calcite sea conditions on the evolution of biocalcification relies strongly on the correct interpretation of the original composition of calcareous taxa. Aragonite dissolves or inverts into calcite over geological time, and its preservation is currently unknown to predate the Pennsylvanian. Here we present direct evidence for the common occurrence of relic aragonite in Ordovician and Silurian trimerellid brachiopods, thereby extending the known range of aragonite preservation by more than 130 million years. Together with associated hypercalcifying taxa of putatively original aragonite or high-magnesium calcite composition and considerations of the temperature dependence of aragonite and calcite precipitation, our results suggest that the evolution of aragonite biomineralization might have presented an adaptive advantage in shallow marine tropical waters of calcite seas. A targeted search for Paleozoic aragonite should both resolve the original composition of consistently recrystallized taxa and enable the reassessment of the aragonite/calcite sea paradigm in a paleoenvironmental context.

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