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Devonian monospecific assemblages: new insights into the ecology of reduced-oxygen depositional settings




Diana L. Boyer [] and Mary L. Droser [], Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.


Low-diversity fossil assemblages interpreted as representing dysaerobic communities are common in the Phanerozoic rock record, and those composed of a single species have particular utility for recognizing the lowest bottom-water oxygen levels. An unusually high-diversity of clades including three rhynchonelliform, two linguliform, and one bivalve species occur in monospecific assemblages within Middle and Upper Devonian black shales of New York State. These six taxa are interpreted to be adapted to extremely reduced bottom-water oxygen levels as inferred from detailed sedimentological data and their repeated monospecific occurrence; however these groups represent two distinct ecologies. Three of these taxa are restricted to sediments deposited under the lowest dysaerobic conditions, while the other three taxa, unlike other fossils characteristic of reduced-oxygen levels, also occur in and are even dominant in high-diversity assemblages. The rhynchonellid brachiopod Eumetabolotoechia multicostata is the most abundant taxon within these units and has a remarkable ecological range as dominant from the lowest dysaerobic zone to near-normal marine oxygen levels. These Devonian groups, when present in monospecific assemblages, have utility for characterizing the lowest dysaerobic zone where trace fossil assemblages, most commonly used to describe these low-oxygen depositional settings, are absent or poorly developed.