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Dynamics of the lacustrine fauna from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation, China: implications of volcanic and climatic factors








Pan Yanhong [], Sha Jingeng [], Wang Yaqiong [], Zhang Xiaolin [], and Yao Xiaogang [], State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, East Beijing Road No. 39, 210008 Nanjing, China; Franz Theodor Fürsich [], GeoZentrum Nordbayern, Fachgruppe Paläoumwelt, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany; manuscript received on 06/04/2011; manuscript accepted on 23/05/2011.


Pan, Y., Sha, J., Fürsich, F.T., Wang, Y., Zhang, X. & Yao, X. 2011: Dynamics of the lacustrine fauna from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation, China: implications of volcanic and climatic factors. Lethaia, Vol. 45, pp. 299–314.

The taphonomy and palaeoecology of the famous Lower Cretaceous Jehol biota of northeastern China are two of its least resolved aspects. The biota occurs in lacustrine sediments characterized by abundant volcanic ash layers. The general view is that these tuff layers correlate strongly with vertebrate mass mortality events. However, though aquatic invertebrates also suffered mass mortality, in the majority of cases individuals tend to occur on bedding planes of finely laminated sediments, suggesting that each mass mortality event is not related to volcanic activity. Based on data collected in the course of two excavations at Zhangjiagou and Erdaougou, the role of volcanic activity and other factors that could have controlled the dynamics of the fauna were investigated. Cluster analyses of fossil assemblages from both localities show similar results, and eight fossil communities are recognized. In the lacustrine Yixian Formation, frequent and often severe volcanic activity represented by the abundant tuff layers influenced the water quality, causing repeated collapse of the aquatic ecosystem. Bedding planes with remains of the eight different communities were analysed, each recording the community dynamics of a shallow eutrophic lake system that was most probably controlled by fluctuations of oxygen level related to climate. A mortality model, in which oxygen-level fluctuations play the decisive role, is proposed to explain the existence and distribution of the fossil communities, as well as the unfossiliferous layers. □China, Jehol biota, lacustrine community, mass mortality, palaeoclimate, volcanic activity.