Recovery of benthic marine communities from the end-Permian mass extinction at the low latitudes of eastern Panthalassa

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Abstract

Based on the quantitative community analysis using species-level identifications, we track the restoration of benthic ecosystems after the end-Permian mass extinction throughout the Lower Triassic of the western USA. New data on the palaeoecology of the Thaynes Group and Sinbad Formation are provided, which fill a gap between the recently studied palaeoecology of the Griesbachian–Dienerian Dinwoody Formation and the Spathian Virgin Formation. In the Sinbad Formation and Thaynes Group, 17 species (12 genera) of bivalves, 7 species and genera of gastropods and 2 species and genera of brachiopods are recognized. The new bivalve genus Confusionella (Pteriidae) is described. A comprehensive review of the whole Lower Triassic succession of benthic ecosystems of the western USA indicates that mid- and inner shelf environments show incipient recovery signals around the Griesbachian–Dienerian transition, during the Smithian and, most profound, during the early Spathian. Ecological data from youngest strata of the Dinwoody Formation as well as stratigraphic ranges of species suggest that the late Dienerian was likely a time interval of environmental stress for benthic ecosystems. Despite some evidence for short-term environmental disturbances (e.g. shift of dominant taxa, transient drop in alpha-diversity) during the Smithian–Spathian transition, benthic ecosystems did not show any notable taxonomic turnover at that time, in contrast to the major crisis that affected ammonoids and conodonts. Whereas alpha-diversity of benthic communities generally increased throughout the Early Triassic, beta-diversity remained low, which reflects a persistently wide environmental range of benthic species. This observation is in accordance with a recently proposed model that predicts a time lag between increasing within-habitat diversity (alpha-diversity) and the onset of taxonomic differentiation between habitats (beta-diversity) during biotic recoveries from mass extinction events. The observation that beta-diversity had not significantly increased during the Early Triassic might also provide an explanation for the comparably sluggish increase in benthic diversity during that time, which has previously been attributed to persistent environmental stress.

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