Palaeoecology and evolution of Mesozoic salinity-controlled benthic macroinvertebrate associations



Salinity-controlled benthic macroinvertebrate associations are typical of many Mesozoic marginally marine environments. They can be recognized by abiotic criteria (e.g., environmental setting, specific autigenic minerals), by biotic criteria (faunal composition, diversity, shell morphology, size-frequency histograms, taphonomic features, associated micro fauna and microflora), and by isotope geochemistry of shells. Although salinity-controlled associations must have been widespread in the European German Triassic, very little is known about their ecology. They appear to have been dominated by the bivalve Unionites and the brachiopod Lingula. In the Jurassic, brackish-water associations are characterized by bivalves, in particular neomiodontids, corbulids, mytilids, bakevelliids, isognomonids, and oysters. In the Cretaceous, in addition, corbiculid bivalves and gastropods become increasingly abundant. Salinity-controlled benthic macroinvertebrate associations can be used to reconstruct salinity regimes of ancient environments, but emphasis should be placed on an integrated sedimentological and ecological approach, as salinity is rarely the only parameter influencing faunal composition and diversity. Although the species composition of salinity-controlled benthic associations changes distinctly through time, the composition of morphotypes remains surprisingly constant throughout the Mesozoic and up to the Recent, evidence of a conservative evolution of benthic faunas within marginal marine high-stress environments. □Salinity, benthic associations, palaeoecology, Mesozoic.