Comparative ecological analysis of Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) benthic faunas from southern France and east-central Spain


Franz T. Fürsich [], Institut für Paläontologie der Universität Würzburg, Pleicherwall 1, D-97070 Würzburg, Germany;


Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) argillaceous-marly sediments of southern France (Causses) and east-central Spain (Barranco de la Puta section) were deposited in mid to lower shelf settings. They contain a low to moderately diverse, autochthonous fauna of benthic macroinvertebrates dominated by bivalves and gastropods, in the case of the Causses, and by bivalves and brachiopods in the Barranco de la Puta section. Five benthic associations are recognized at the latter locality and four at the former. In the Causses, low species diversity, evidence of seasonal mass mortality, presence of the opportunistic bivalve Parvamussium pumilum, local dominance of the soft bottom coral Thecocyathus mactrus and the dark-grey, fine-grained sediment point to high rates of sedimentation, high turbidity, intermittently lowered oxygen values and soft to soupy substrate conditions. These factors, together with eutrophic water masses, were the main environmental parameters governing faunal distribution. Soupy substrate conditions are thought to be largely biologically produced by the activity of infaunal depositfeeders, chiefly nuculoid bivalves. In the Barranco de la Puta section, abundant brachiopods, higher carbonate content of the sediment, and evidence of intermittent in-situ reworking and winnowing point to an influence of storm-induced currents, a shallower depositional depth, lower turbidity, a lower rate of sedimentation, and a somewhat firmer substrate. As a consequence, the fauna is largely dominated by epifaunal suspension-feeders. Compared with maximum and average sizes from elsewhere in the Jurassic, most bivalve species are distinctly smaller, a feature interpreted as stunting. Brachiopods, in contrast, reach normal size. The lack of nuculids, scarcity of deposit-feeders in general, and stunting are interpreted as evidence of an oligotrophic environment. Lowered oxygen conditions appear to have played only a very limited role in shaping the distribution pattern. Many of the differences between both areas can be explained by the different trophic regimes that reflect considerably higher run-off and consequently higher input of terrigenous sediment and dissolved nutrients to the basin in the case of the Causses. This in turn is thought to possibly reflect differences in regional climate; humid in southern France and more arid in eastcentral Spain.