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Abstract

Permian–Triassic boundary microbialites (PTBMs) are thin (0.05–15 m) carbonates formed after the end-Permian mass extinction. They comprise Renalcis-group calcimicrobes, microbially mediated micrite, presumed inorganic micrite, calcite cement (some may be microbially influenced) and shelly faunas. PTBMs are abundant in low-latitude shallow-marine carbonate shelves in central Tethyan continents but are rare in higher latitudes, likely inhibited by clastic supply on Pangaea margins. PTBMs occupied broadly similar environments to Late Permian reefs in Tethys, but extended into deeper waters. Late Permian reefs are also rich in microbes (and cements), so post-extinction seawater carbonate saturation was likely similar to the Late Permian. However, PTBMs lack widespread abundant inorganic carbonate cement fans, so a previous interpretation that anoxic bicarbonate-rich water upwelled to rapidly increase carbonate saturation of shallow seawater, post-extinction, is problematic. Preliminary pyrite framboid evidence shows anoxia in PTBM facies, but interbedded shelly faunas indicate oxygenated water, perhaps there was short-term pulsing of normally saturated anoxic water from the oxygen-minimum zone to surface waters. In Tethys, PTBMs show geographic variations: (i) in south China, PTBMs are mostly thrombolites in open shelf settings, largely recrystallised, with remnant structure of Renalcis-group calcimicrobes; (ii) in south Turkey, in shallow waters, stromatolites and thrombolites, lacking calcimicrobes, are interbedded, likely depth-controlled; and (iii) in the Middle East, especially Iran, stromatolites and thrombolites (calcimicrobes uncommon) occur in different sites on open shelves, where controls are unclear. Thus, PTBMs were under more complex control than previously portrayed, with local facies control playing a significant role in their structure and composition.