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Delayed recovery of metazoan reefs on the Laibin-Heshan platform margin following the Middle Permian (Capitanian) mass extinction

Wang, X., Foster, W.J., Yan, J., Li, A., Mutti, M.
Global and planetary change 2019 v.180 pp. 1-15
Animalia, Capitanian age, Changhsingian age, Wuchiapingian age, basins, ecosystems, euphotic zone, extinction, reefs, topography, China
Following the Middle Permian (Capitanian) mass extinction there was a global ‘reef eclipse’, and this event had an important role in the Paleozoic-Mesozoic transition of reef ecosystems. Furthermore, the recovery pattern of reef ecosystems in the Wuchiapingian of South China, before the radiation of Changhsingian reefs, is poorly understood. Here, we present a detailed sedimentological account of the Tieqiao section, South China, which records the only known Wuchiapingian reef setting from South China. Six reef growing phases were identified within six transgressive-regressive cycles. The cycles represent changes of deposition in a shallow basin to a subtidal outer platform setting, and the reefal build-ups are recorded in the shallowest part of the cycles above wave base in the euphotic zone. Our results show that the initial reef recovery started from the shallowing up part of the 1st cycle, within the Clarkina leveni conodont zone, which is two conodont zones earlier than previously recognized. In addition, even though metazoans, such as sponges, do become important in the development of the reef bodies, they are not a major component until later in the Wuchiapingian in the 5th and 6th transgressive-regressive cycles. This suggests a delayed recovery of metazoan reef ecosystems following the Middle Permian extinction. Furthermore, even though sponges do become abundant within the reefs, it is the presence and growth of the encrusters Archaeolithoporella and Tubiphytes and abundance of microbial micrites that play an important role in stabilizing the reef structures that form topographic highs.