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Genesis, modification, and preservation of complex Upper Ordovician hardgrounds: Implications for sequence stratigraphy and the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event

Paton, Timothy R., Brett, Carlton E., Kampouris, George E.
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.526 pp. 53-71
Ordovician period, basins, oceans, stratigraphy, surveys, Ontario
Hardgrounds from the Upper Ordovician strata of eastern Laurentia exhibit a wide range of morphologies, though the development of their complex surface topographies remains poorly understood. These early lithified seafloors, which can be laterally very extensive, may provide key information about basin dynamics and global ocean fluctuations. Based on spectacular exposures and newly-excavated material, we examined a suite of hardgrounds from the Upper Ordovician (Katian) of southern Ontario and the Cincinnati Arch region and documented the processes of genesis, development, and modification of simple, complex, and block hardgrounds. In this study, we used extensive field work, petrology, and cathodoluminescence to determine the evolution and shaping of hardgrounds as a result of intense submarine erosion and prolonged exposure of these surfaces and reveal a progression from simple to complex hardgrounds and ultimately to isolated cobble- to boulder-sized block hardgrounds. We survey the distribution of hardgrounds in a sequence stratigraphic framework to determine allocyclic controls on hardground development, highlight the important role that mixed siliciclastic-carbonate environments play in promoting the development of heterogeneous hardground topographies, and analyze the effects of high surface reliefs on local depositional and erosional regimes. In addition, we interpret the impact of increasingly abundant complex hardgrounds throughout the Ordovician on hard-substrate community diversification and their contribution to the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event. We also discuss time-specific aspects of the Late Ordovician that made it a peak interval of hardground proliferation.