Early Silurian (Llandovery) graptolite assemblages of Saudi Arabia: biozonation, palaeoenvironmental significance and biogeography

Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz, Hani Boukhamsin, Christian Cesari

Abstract


Analysis of Silurian graptolite assemblages from 1017 sample horizons in 132 cores (from 65 boreholes) through the Qusaiba Member, Qalibah Formation of Saudi Arabia, provides a refined graptolite biostratigraphy for the Arabian Peninsula comparable in its resolution to that from the British Isles and the Czech Republic. Over 150 graptolite species characterize 11 biozones from the lowermost Rhuddanian lubricus Biozone to the lower Telychian guerichi Biozone, with sub-zonal resolution for several intervals. Graptolite biozonal boundaries and the Rhuddanian-Aeronian and Aeronian-Telychian stage boundaries can be placed with high precision. Detailed analysis of graptolite spatial distribution suggests persistent depth-stratified assemblages across the Silurian palaeo-Arabian Plate. Near-surface-dwelling assemblages probably occupied the mixed-layer of Silurian oceans, enabling colonization of shallow shelf environments. They are low-diversity (1-2 species) assemblages characterized by Neodiplograptus, Coronograptus, Neolagarograptus and Stimulograptus species and often are preserved in strata with extensive shelly faunas. Deeper marine assemblages are of higher diversity (up to 15 species per horizon), and are characterized by dorsally curved or helically coiled species of Spirograptus, Demirastrites, Lituigraptus, Rastrites and Torquigraptus. Recognition of depth-stratified graptolite assemblages provides an important tool for establishing palaeo-basin topography and water depth at the time of sedimentary deposition. At the species level, the graptolite assemblages of Saudi Arabia are remarkably similar to contemporaneous faunas from peri-Gondwanan Europe and, from the middle Rhuddanian onwards, also to the Avalonian and Laurentian Llandovery graptolites of the UK.


Keywords


Saudi Arabia; Silurian; graptolites; biozonation

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