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Trends in Extent and Depth of Ordovician Infauna

Mary L. Droser, David J. Bottjer

The Ordovician radiation has been particularly well documented from analyses of trends in marine familial diversity. Trace fossil diversity also increased during this time. However, there has not previously been an attempt to document the Ordovician radiation in terms of depth and extent of bioturbation and utilization of infaunal ecospace.

In order to determine the relationship between the Ordovician radiation and the development of the infaunal biological benthic boundary layer, over 600 m of Ordovician strata (Nevada and Utah) deposited in shallow subtidal shelf environments were examined. The amount of bioturbation in these rocks was ranked using the following ichnofabric indices: (1) no bioturbation; (2) discrete isolated trace fossils, up to 10% bioturbated; (3) 10 to 40% bioturbated, but bedding is generally preserved; (4) 40 to 60% bioturbated, last vestiges of bedding preserved; (5) bedding completely disrupted; and (6) bedding nearly or totally homogenized. In the Lower and Middle Ordovician the most common ichnofabric index is 3, represented by 41% of the strata, whereas ichnofabric index 5 represents only 8%. Depth of bioturbation averages 2-3 cm with a maximum of 5 cm. Flat pebble conglomerates, previously suggested to indicate limited bioturbation, are abundant in these strata. By the late Caradoc, 67% of the strata are represented by ichnofabric index 5. Depth of bioturbation ranges from centimeters to tens of centimeters, with Thalassinoides dominating trace fossil assemblages.

This nearly order-of-magnitude increase in the occurrence of completely bioturbated strata through the Ordovician is consistent with the hypotheses of others who have suggested that an increase in diversity can be accompanied by an increase in utilization of ecospace. It is unlikely, however, that this increase in bioturbation was the result solely of shelly organisms, thus supporting the contention that soft-bodied organisms also underwent diversification at this time.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91038©1987 AAPG Annual Convention, Los Angeles, California, June 7-10, 1987.