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Enigmatic tubes associated with microbial crusts from the Late Jurassic of the Northern Calcareous Alps (Austria): a mutualistic sponge–epibiont consortium?




Felix Schlagintweit (, Lerchenauerstr. 167, München 80935, Germany; Hans-Jürgen Gawlick (, Department of Applied Geosciences and Geophysics, University of Leoben, Peter-Tunner-Str. 5, 8700 Leoben, Austria


Irregular tube-shaped microfossils incertae sedis are a typical constituent of Late Jurassic shallow-water reefal carbonates of the Northern Calcareous Alps of Austria and are described in open nomenclature. The enigmatic, polymorphous spar-filled tubes with neither observable external nor internal skeletal elements occur either free within peloidal sediments or mostly fixed to skeletal substrates embedded in microbial crusts including the genera Labes Eliášová, Crescentiella Senowbari-Daryan et al. or Isnella Senowbari-Daryan. The tubes are varied in shape and closely resemble different taxa of sponges. As the microbial crusts preferentially occur associated with these tubiform microfossils, this association is suggested to be non-parasitic and mutualistic. Without the surrounding crusts, the existence of these animals would have been masked or perhaps even totally lost in the fossil record expressing the importance of these findings as a characteristic element in the inventory of Late Jurassic reefal biocoenoses.