Articles | Volume 36, issue 2
31 Mar 2017
 | 31 Mar 2017

On the Cretaceous origin of the Order Syracosphaerales and the genus Syracosphaera

Paul R. Bown, Jeremy R. Young, and Jacqueline A. Lees

Keywords: Syracosphaerales, Syracosphaeraceae, Rhabdosphaeraceae, Calciosoleniaceae, Stephanolithiaceae, Cretaceous, Turonian, Tanzania Drilling Project

Abstract. New scanning electron microscope observations of unadulterated calcareous nannofossil assemblages on lamina surfaces of Cretaceous Tanzania Drilling Project sediments reveal high diversity in the <3 μm size-range and high abundances of small and frangible morphologies. These assemblages prompt comparison to modern assemblages, which show similar high diversity and abundance of very small and fragile taxa, although these assemblages are generally not preserved in the fossil record due to taphonomic filtering. Not only are there broad similarities between the general composition of modern assemblages and those of the Tanzanian lagerstätte, but also our discovery of several new Cretaceous taxa provides evidence for greatly extended fossil lineages of extant orders, with implications for both deep-time biodiversity divergence and survival through the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Our findings include: new species that are the first-recorded Mesozoic representatives of the extant Syracosphaeraceae and Papposphaeraceae; potentially previously unrecorded diversity in the Mesozoic Calciosoleniaceae, another extant order, represented by extant species that have been described already; and new species and unusually high abundances of the Mesozoic Stephanolithiaceae. We also highlight the extended range of an incertae sedis Cenozoic genus, Ellipsolithus, into at least the Turonian.

Here, we describe seven new miniscule to very small Cretaceous species: Syracosphaera antiqua, S. repagula, Pocillithus macleodii, P. crucifer, Stradnerlithus wendleri, S.? haynesiae and Tortolithus foramen.