Abstract

During growth of colonial corals, the basic organization of skeletal elements was determined by inherent factors, but arrangement of corallites within a colony could be affected if environmental change induced a modified growth form. Comparisons of internal and external characters during colony development indicate how environmental and genetic factors determined growth form. The results of these comparisons have implications for understanding of colony integration, functional morphology, and systematics. This study is based on serially sectioned coralla of the cerioid tabulate Paleofavosites subelongus, from the uppermost Ordovician to lowermost Silurian of the east-central United States. Colony growth from resulted from changes in maximum growth angle of marginal corallites, and in the shape of the growth surface. These features were coordinated with corallite characters and were dependent on variation in corallite growth. At the same time that a colony became broader by expanding its maximum growth angle and developing a taller growth surface, its corallites became larger, more new corallites were initiated, and recently initiated corallites expanded more rapidly. When a colony's maximum growth angle was reduced and the growth surface became flatter, corallites also became smaller, fewer corallites were initiated, and those corallites that were recently initiated expanded slowly. Genetic constraint of growth is illustrated by consistent patterns of initial colony growth, and by relationships among characters of internal and external morphology. Frequent small-scale variations in growth angle and growth surface height: width during astogeny indicate fluctuating environmental factors. Sedimentation and subsidence of the colony were probably the major environmental controls on form.

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