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Palynomorphs of the Fezouata Shale (Lower Ordovician, Morocco): Age and environmental constraints of the Fezouata Biota

Nowak, Hendrik, Servais, Thomas, Pittet, Bernard, Vaucher, Romain, Akodad, Mustapha, Gaines, Robert R., Vandenbroucke, Thijs R.A.
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2016 v.460 pp. 62-74
fossils, palynology, shale, China, Morocco
The present study documents new palynological investigations of the Fezouata Shale from the Anti-Atlas (Morocco). Palynomorphs were extracted from samples collected from both outcrops and drill cuttings. Outcrop samples were taken near Zagora, and include some that were collected during excavation of stratigraphic horizons where exceptionally well-preserved fossils of the Fezouata Lagerstätte occur. Subsurface samples were taken from the AZ-1 (Adrar Zouggar Mountain) borehole, which was extracted some 300km to the southwest of Zagora. The palynological samples yielded acritarchs, chitinozoans, scolecodonts, conodonts and fragments of graptolites. The abundance and quality of preservation of palynomorphs varies greatly, but rich and diverse assemblages were recovered from several samples. The diversity and composition of the assemblages points to an open shelf environment. Generally mixed preservation states suggest resedimentation or differential transport histories. The acritarchs can be assigned to the diagnostic messaoudensis-trifidum acritarch assemblage, which is typical of the Tremadocian/Floian boundary interval of the Gondwanan margin in high southern palaeolatitudes. The acritarch taxa present in some of the lower parts of the Fezouata Shale including levels of exceptional preservation can be attributed to sub-assemblages 1–2 of the messaoudensis-trifidum assemblage and thus point to a late Tremadocian age of the Fezouata Lagerstätte, confirming biostratigraphic data provided by graptolites of the Araneograptus murrayi graptolite biozone. Chitinozoans from the Fezouata Shale are from the E. symmetrica and E. brevis biozones and include various species that are well-known from several localities on the Gondwanan margin and from other palaeocontinents (Baltica, Laurentia, and South China), demarcating broad links between those regions. The coincidence between index fossils of these three groups, hitherto not all found in the same level, suggests that the age assignments of chitinozoan biozones may be in need of revision.