Previous observations about the stable nature of coral-rich assemblages from the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group have led some researchers to invoke the primacy of ecological controls in maintaining biofacies structure through time. However, few analyses have examined the degree to which recurring biofacies vary quantitatively, and none have assessed lateral variability as a benchmark for testing the significance of temporal variability. Thus, the extent to which Hamilton biofacies persist and the mechanism(s) responsible for their hypothesized stability remain contentious. In this study, recurring coral-rich biofacies were evaluated from two stratigraphic horizons within the Middle Devonian Appalachian Basin to examine (1) the extent to which species assemblages persisted within the basin through space and time, and (2) whether ecological interactions may be a plausible mechanism for generating the degree of stasis observed in this case.
Variations in species composition and abundance were examined across multiple spatial scales within both sampled coral-rich horizons. This permitted the establishment of a baseline against which temporal differences in biofacies composition and structure could be evaluated. Although successive coral-rich horizons remained taxonomically stable, their dominance structures changed significantly through the 1.5 Myr study interval. Moreover, additional comparisons among older Hamilton coral-rich horizons corroborate our primary results. These findings support a model in which species respond individually to fluctuations in the physical environment, as indicated by the fluidity of their relative abundances geographically and temporally.