Abstract

Microfossil assemblages and their shell geochemistry are widely used in paleoceanography, but they can be significantly altered by subtle variations in preservation state. Clay-rich, hemipelagic sediments of the Paleogene Kilwa Group of coastal Tanzania host calcareous microfossils that are exceptionally preserved, as evidenced by morphological, taxonomic, and geochemical data. The planktonic foraminifera are preserved as glassy, translucent tests with original microgranular wall textures that resemble well-preserved modern specimens, and they arguably yield geochemical values that are relatively unaffected by recrystallization. The calcareous nannofossils are extraordinarily diverse and represented by unique assemblage compositions that include dissolution-susceptible taxa, especially holococcoliths and rhabdoliths, and fragile and very small (<3-μm) heterococcoliths, many of which are new taxa. Notably, the extant, deep–photic-zone taxon Gladiolithus is documented for the first time in the pre-Quaternary fossil record. The Kilwa Group calcareous nannofossil diversities are consistently higher than all coeval assemblages and provide a benchmark against which to compare other Paleogene biodiversity data. Highest diversities are preserved in hemipelagic, clay-rich lithologies and the greatest losses occur in lithified, carbonate-rich sediments. Most of the lost diversity, however, is confined to distinct taxonomic groups (holococcoliths and Syracosphaerales), and in general the preservational potential of Paleogene coccolithophores was greater than in the modern oceans because a larger proportion of the biodiversity fell within the larger size fractions. For both foraminifera and coccolithophores, incorporation into impermeable clay-rich sediments that have never been deeply buried appears to have been critical in producing this Konservat-Lagerstätte preservation.

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