Abstract

Saffordophyllum newcombae Flower, 1961, displays unique abilities and an unprecedented range in types of corallite increase. Cerioid growth was characteristic, but colonies on soft substrates could grow in a tollinaform manner during early astogeny. The capacity for recovery from damage and partial mortality is amazing. Rejuvenation may have been accompanied by peripheral expansion in some cases. Rapid regeneration could involve axial increase. Circular lacunae that formed during recovery became sites of rapid lateral increase or corallite decrease.

Two types of axial increase occurred within coralla. Lateral increase was concentrated mainly along the basal wall and adjacent to certain circular lacunae. In typical cerioid parts of the corallum, lateral increase seldom yielded “adult” corallites, but incipient lateral offsets could be numerous. The level of colony integration was probably moderately high. There was likely soft-tissue continuity among polyps, coordination of polyp behavior, subjugation of individuals for the good of the colony, and perhaps astogenetic control.

Saffordophyllum newcombae is considered to be a tabulate coral, although one type of axial increase is similar to that in a few rugose corals and the other type of axial increase as well as possible peripheral expansion resemble modes of increase in some coralline sponges. Lateral increase is considered compatible with cnidarian rather than poriferan biology. Corallite size is typical of tabulates. Saffordophyllum may not be the direct ancestor of favositid tabulates, and may not even be closely related to them; S. newcombae is very different from Paleofavosites and Favosites.

The remarkable range in forms of increase discovered in S. newcombae demonstrates the critical need for detailed paleobiologic studies, if we are to understand the early evolutionary history of corals and to establish reliable criteria for distinguishing various coral groups and homeomorphs.

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