ABSTRACT

During the late Cambrian–Early Ordovician interval the predominant non-microbial reef builders were sponges or sponge-like metazoans. The lithological and faunal composition of Cambro-Ordovician sponge-dominated reefs have previously been analyzed and reviewed. Here we take the relationship between reef aggregation pattern at reef to seascape scale into account, and look for changes during the Early–Middle Ordovician interval, in which metazoans became dominant reef builders. In a comparison of sponge-rich reefs from eight sites of the Laurentia paleocontinent three different seascape level reef growth patterns can be distinguished: (1) mosaic mode of reef growth, where reefs form a complex spatial mosaic dependent on hard substrate; (2) episodic mode, where patch reefs grew exclusively in distinct unconformity bounded horizons within non-reefal lithological units that have a much larger thickness; and (3) belt-and-bank mode, where reefs and reef complexes grew vertically and laterally as dispersed patches largely independent from truncation surfaces. The distinct modes of growth likely represent specific reef forming paleocommunities, because they differ in content and abundance of skeletal metazoan framebuilders, bioturbation intensity of non-skeletal reef sediment matrix, and in association of reef growth with underlying hard substrate. We suggest, based on a review of Laurentian reef occurrences, that the mosaic mode dominated in Early Ordovician strata and that the dominance shifted toward the belt and bank mode from Middle Ordovician strata onward.

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