• Aptian;
  • environmental control;
  • Lithocodium–Bacinella;
  • morphogenesis;
  • observational scale;
  • Oceanic Anoxic Event 1a;
  • Sultanate of Oman


Lithocodium aggregatum and Bacinella irregularis are now extinct, shallow marine life forms of unknown taxonomic origin. Forming part of the tropical platform biota during much of the Mesozoic, these organisms experienced bloom periods and temporarily replaced rudist–coral assemblages during parts of the Early Aptian. Within the limitations of time resolution, this ‘out-of-balance’ facies is coeval with the Oceanic Anoxic Event 1a-related black shale deposition in oceanic basins but the triggering factors remain poorly understood. Here, a platform-wide comparison of Lithocodium–Bacinella geobodies and morphotypes from the Sultanate of Oman is presented and placed in its environmental, bathymetric and physiographic context. Lithocodium–Bacinella geobodies reach from kilometre-scale ‘superstructures’ to delicate centimetre-sized growth forms. Clearly, scale matters and care must be taken when drawing conclusions based on spatially limited observational data. Whilst the factors that cause Lithocodium–Bacinella expansion should probably be considered in a global context, regional to local factors affected growth patterns in a more predictable manner. Here, the unresolved taxonomic relationship remains the main obstacle in any attempt to unravel the response of Lithocodium–Bacinella to specific or interlinked environmental parameters as different organisms respond differently to changing environment. Acknowledging these limitations, the following tentative patterns are observed: (i) Lithocodium–Bacinella tolerated a wide range of hydrodynamic levels and responded to differences in energy level or physiographic settings (margin, intrashelf basin, inner platform) by obtaining characteristic growth forms. (ii) Lithocodium–Bacinella favoured low-sediment input but had the ability to react to higher sedimentation rates by enhanced upward growth; a feature perhaps pointing to a phototrophic metabolism. Circumstantial evidence for continuous growth within the upper-sediment column is debated. (iii) The availability of accommodation space had a direct influence on the maximum size of geobodies formed. (iv) Fluctuating nutrient levels and sea water alkalinity may have affected the growth potential of Lithocodium–Bacinella. Understanding the relationship between Lithocodium–Bacinella morphogenesis on a wide range of scales and local environmental parameters allows for better prediction of the spatial distribution of reservoir properties and also results in an improved interpretation of palaeoenvironments. This study might represent a useful first step in this direction.