Structure and Secretion of the Graptolite Prosicula, and its Application for Biostratigraphical and Evolutionary Studies



Studies on graptolite taxonomy and phylogeny in recent years have placed great emphasis on the proximal development of the rhabdosome, particularly the presence or absence of a virgella and early thecal growth patterns. As the prosicula was the earliest part of the graptolite skeleton to be secreted, it may also reveal fundamental information about evolutionary relationships within the Graptoloidea. The prosiculae from a variety of Ordovician taxa ranging in age from Tremadoc to Caradoc have been examined using a combination of light microscopy, SEM and TEM. Parameters investigated include the overall morphology, transition into the nema, pattern of longitudinal ridges and spiral line. Taxa show a change from early Tremadoc graptoloids which have a low diaphragm, prominent spiral line and lack longitudinal ridges, through late Tremadoc and early Arenig taxa which have longitudinal cortical bandages or spiralled, paired longitudinal ridges, into later Arenig and Llanvirn forms which have simple longitudinal ridges and indistinct spiral line and diaphragm. With additional work at higher stratigraphical levels, graptolite prosiculae may prove to be useful biostratigraphically when more complete material is absent, such as in palynomorph preparations from subsurface studies.