Abstract

A middle Cenomanian faunule from the Moonkinu Formation of Bathurst Island in Northern Australia contains the best-preserved suite of benthic Mollusca known from the Cretaceous of the Australian region. Twenty-four species of bivalves, gastropods, and scaphopods, many exquisitely preserved with original aragonitic nacre, are recognized. Thirteen are new: Nucula s.l. meadinga n. sp. (Nuculidae), Nuculana bathurstensis n. sp. (Nuculanidae), Jupiteria? n. sp. A (Nuculanidae), Varicorbula cretaustrina n. sp. (Corbulidae), Vanikoropsis demipleurus n. sp. (Vanikoridae), Euspira n. sp. A (Naticidae), Amuletum praeturriformis n. sp. (Turridae), Granosolarium cretasteum n. sp. (Architectonicidae), Echinimathilda moonkinua n. sp. (Mathildidae), Acteon bathurstensis n. sp. (Acteonidae), Biplica antichthona n. sp. (Ringiculidae), Goniocylichna australocylindricata n. sp. (Cylichnidae), and Dentalium (Dentalium) n. sp. A (Dentaliidae). Nominal species of Nuculana, Grammatodon, Cylichna, and Laevidentalium also are present. The occurrence of ammonites, including taxa that occur in the type Cenomanian, securely establishes the fauna as middle Cenomanian (Acanthoceras rhotomagense Zone). The Moonkinu Formation and its faunule were deposited in a high-energy, shallow-shelfal setting, as part of a large-scale regressive cycle recognized as the Money Shoals Platform of northern Australia. The assemblage represents a parauthochthonous suite which experienced little or no post mortem transport. Epifaunal and infaunal suspension feeders (some 60 percent) dominate the bivalve fauna with a subordinate representation of deposit-feeding infaunal burrowers (some 40 percent). Nearly all of the gastopods were carnivores with the aporrhaid Latiala mountnorrisi (Skwarko), probably a deposit feeder, the only exception. The scaphopods were probably micro-carnivores. Concentrations of the ammonite Sciponoceras glaessneri are likely the result of mass kills in surface waters. The cosmopolitan nature of the Bathurst Island fauna at the genus-level reflects unrestricted oceanic circulation patterns and an equitable climate on a global scale during the Cenomanian. The retreat and disappearance of the Australian epicontinental sea at the close of the Albian coincided with reduced endemism in the molluscan faunas, after which time the continental shelves hosted a rich suite of cosmopolitan affinity. The high number of endemic species in the Moonkinu Formation probably represents an early stage of broad-scale genetic separation among Southern Hemisphere molluscan stocks, a trend that became increasingly pronounced through the Late Cretaceous. The new records of Varicorbula, Amuletum, Granosolarium, Echinimathilda, and Goniocylichna represent the oldest occurrences recorded for these genera and are suggestive of Southern Hemisphere origins.

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