Role of low intensity environmental disturbance in structuring the earliest (Ediacaran) macrobenthic tiered communities
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
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Wilby, P., Kenchington, C., & Wilby, R. (2015). Role of low intensity environmental disturbance in structuring the earliest (Ediacaran) macrobenthic tiered communities. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 434 14-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.03.033
Rangeomorphs were important components of Ediacaran macrobenthic ecosystems, yet their biology and ecology remain poorly constrained. They formed high-density, tiered communities that were subjected to intermittent burial events, the largest of which killed entire communities. Abundant thin event beds in the Ediacaran succession of Charnwood Forest indicate the additional, frequent impact of minor obrution events. The type surface of Charniamasoni is immediately underlain by one such lamina (a tuff) and preserves a distinctly bimodal population. It is dominated by Charnia fronds that are of smaller or comparable length to the holotype (19.4 cm), but also includes notably larger specimens (N45 cm) that would traditionally have been assigned to Charnia grandis. Multiple morphological- and morphometric parameters (length, width, spacing of primary branches) demonstrate that these are indistinguishable from the holotype of C. masoni, affirming the synonymy of the two taxa. Nevertheless, these outsized individuals are distinguished by their proportionally fewer primary branches per unit length. Taphonomic evidence indicates that they were survivors of an incumbent population, the rest of which was culled by a minor ashfall.We suggest that this temporary reduction in competition from neighbours allowed the survivors to grow larger and thereby gain access to a greater proportion of the water column. As the community recovered, their large sizewould have continued to provide themwith an advantage, divorcing them from the density-dependent competition seen in the new understory. The interlude between cohorts implies that newrecruitswere substrate-sensitive, presumably awaiting re-establishment of the biomat. Sub-lethal disturbance events thus played a significant role in structuring Ediacaran communities, and help explain the observed bed-by-bed variability. Taken as a whole, the growth trajectory of C. masoni resembles that of extant organismswith indeterminate growth programmes and no genetically-controlled upper size limit.
Charnia masoni, Indeterminate growth, Avalon Assemblage, Recovery community, Bimodal population, Cohorts, Sub-lethal disturbance
PRW and CGK were supported by NERC grant NE/I005927/1. We thank our colleagues Mark Dean, Sue Martin, Louise Neep, Scott Renshaw and Paul Shepherd for assistance with moulding and casting; Paul Witney and Simon Harris for photography; and Henry Holbrook for drafting Figs. 1 and 2. We gratefully acknowledge the help in facilitating site access given by Natural England, the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve (Parks and Natural Areas Division, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador) and landowners in Charnwood Forest. We enjoyed useful discussions with Alex Liu and Helen Boynton, and Mark Woods, Guy Harrington, Lidya Tarhan and two anonymous referees are thanked for their constructive comments on the manuscript.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.03.033
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/248013
Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/
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