CIE Spotlight: Early Triassic (early Olenekian) life in the interior of East Gondwana: mixed marine-terrestrial biota from the Kockatea Shale, WA

Guang S.
Guang S.

TitleEarly Triassic (early Olenekian) life in the interior of East Gondwana: mixed marine-terrestrial biota from the Kockatea Shale, Western Australia.

Authors: Haig, David W.; Martin, Sarah K.; Mory, Arthur J.; McLoughlin, Stephen;
Backhouse, John; Berrell, Rodney W.; Kear, Benjamin P.; Hall, Russell;
Foster, Clinton B.; Shi, Guang R.; Bevan, Jennifer C.

Source: PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY, 417 511-533, JAN 1 2015.

Brief summary of the paper: A new terrestrial–marine assemblage from the lower beds of a thin outcrop section of the Kockatea Shale in the northern Perth Basin, Western Australia, contains a range of fossil groups, most of which are rare or poorly known from the Lower Triassic of the region.

To date, the collection includes spinose acritarchs, organic-cemented agglutinated foraminifera, lingulids, minute bivalves and gastropods, ammonoids, spinicaudatans, insects, austriocaridid crustaceans, actinopterygians, a temnospondyl-like mandible, plant remains, and spores and pollen. Of these groups, the insects, crustaceans and macroplant remains are recorded for the first time from this unit.

Palynomorphs permit correlation to nearby sections where conodonts indicate an early Olenekian (Smithian) age. The locality likely represents the margin of an Early Triassic shallow interior sea with variable estuarine-like water conditions, at the southwestern end of an elongate embayment within the East Gondwana interior rift–sag system preserved along the Western Australian margin.

Monospecific spinose acritarch assemblages intertwined with amorphous organic matter may represent phytoplankton blooms that accumulated as mats, and suggest potentially eutrophic surface waters.

The assemblage represents a mixure of marine and terrestrial taxa, suggesting variations in water conditions or that fresh/brackish-water and terrestrial organisms were transported from adjacent biotopes. Some of the lower dark shaly beds are dominated by spinicaudatans, likely indicating periods when the depositional water body was ephemeral, isolated, or subjected to other difficult environmental conditions.

The biota of the Kockatea Shale is insufficiently known to estimate biotic diversity and relationships of individual taxa to their Permian progenitors and Triassic successors, but provides a glimpse into a coastal-zone from the interior of eastern Gondwana. Specialist collecting is needed to clarify the taxonomy of many groups, and comparisons to other Lower Triassic sites are required to provide insights into the pattern of biotic decline and recovery at the end-Permian crisis.