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Microbial mounds prior to the Frasnian-Famennian mass extinctions, Hantang, Guilin, South China



    1. Department of Marine Geology, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology; and Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea Geology, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology and Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510301, China (E-mail:
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    1. School of Natural Resource Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, G. PO Box 2434 QLD 4001, Australia
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    1. Department of Geology, University of Regina, Regina, SK Canada S4S 0A2

      Associate Editor – Gert-Jan Reichart
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Late Frasnian mounds of the Yunghsien Formation, Guilin, South China, developed as part of the Guilin platform, mostly in reef-flat and platform margin settings. Microbial mounds in platform margin settings at Hantang, about 10 km west of Guilin, contain Frasnian biota, such as Stachyodes and Kuangxiastraea and, thus, occur below the Frasnian-Famennian mass extinction boundary. Platform margin facies were dominated by microbes, algae and receptaculitids. Massive corals and stromatoporoids are not common and rarely show reef-building functions as they did in Givetian time. The margin mounds are composed of brachiopod-receptaculitid cementstone, and a variety of boundstones that contain Rothpletzella, Renalcis, thrombolite and stromatolite. Other microbial communities include Girvanella, Izhella, Ortonella and Wetheredella. Solenoporoid algae are abundant locally. Zebra structures and neptunian dykes are well-developed at some intervals. Pervasive early cementation played an important role in lithification of the microbial boundstones and rudstones. Frasnian reefs of many regions of the world were constructed by stromatoporoids and corals, although a shift to calcimicrobe-dominated frameworks occurred before the Famennian. However, the exact ages of many Frasnian margin outcrops are poorly constrained owing to difficulties dating shallow carbonate facies. The Hantang mounds represent a microbe-dominated reef-building community with rare skeletal reef builders, consistent with major Late Devonian changes in reef composition, diversity and guild structure occurring before the end of the Frasnian. A similar transition occurred in the Canning Basin of Western Australia, but coeval successions in North America, Western Europe and the northern Urals are either less well-known or represent different bathymetric settings. The transition in reef-building style below the Frasnian-Famennian boundary is documented here in the two best exposed successions on two continents, which may have been global. Set in the larger context of Late Devonian and Mississippian microbial reef-building, the Hantang mounds help to demonstrate that controls on microbial reef communities differed from those on larger skeletal reef biota. Calcimicrobes replaced stromatoporoids as major reef builders before the Frasnian-Famennian extinction event, and increasing stromatoporoid diversity towards the end of the Famennian did not result in a resurgence of skeletal reef frameworks. Calcimicrobes dominated margin facies through the Famennian, but declined near the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary. Stromatolite and thrombolite facies, which occurred behind the mound margin at Hantang, rose to dominate Mississippian shallow-water reef frameworks with only a minor resurgence of the important Frasnian calcimicrobe Renalcis in the Visean when well-skeletonized organisms (corals) also became volumetrically significant frame builders again.