Evolution of Crustaceans at the edge of the end-Permian crisis: Ichnonetwork analysis of the fluvial succession of Nurra (Permian–Triassic, Sardinia, Italy)

Decapod crustaceans are among the most efficient ecosystem engineers of the Phanerozoic, but the path that led to their engineering success is poorly known. The Permian–Triassic continental succession of Nurra (early Cisuralian–early Middle Triassic; Sardinia, Italy) sheds light on this obscure subject, because it preserves the oldest (Roadian) fluvial Ophiomorpha and Camborygma, ascribed to ghost shrimps (Decapoda: Axiidea, Gebiidea) and crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidea, Parastacidea), respectively. These crustacean trace fossils are part of a well-preserved ichnofauna including Arenicolites, Diplocraterion, Helminthoidichnites, Palaeophycus, Planolites, rhizoliths, Skolithos, Spongeliomorpha, Taenidium, Treptichnus, alongside an undetermined tetrapod footprint, helical burrows and Sinusichnus-like traces.

In light of the abundance of crustacean trace fossils, the Cala Viola section (Roadian–Anisian) was selected for ichnonetwork analysis. This novel approach, focusing on the topology of the association relationships of ichnotaxa, revealed six ichnoassociations, i.e., Rhizohaloes, Taenidium/Ophiomorpha, Helminthoidichnites, Palaeophycus, Skolithos and Arenicolites ichnoassociations. In addition, ichnonetwork analysis shown that Camborygma and Ophiomorpha colonised adjacent, partially overlapping fluvial subenvironments, ranging from active fluvial channels to periaquatic overbanks. As the Nurra occurrences are penecontemporaneous of the astacid/thalassinid diversification (Carboniferous–Early Permian) and coeval with the appearance of crayfishes (Middle Permian), fluvial environments played an important role in the evolution of both crayfishes and ghost shrimps. The most parsimonious explanation of the observed scenario is that astacid–thalassinid diversification happened in fluvial environments between the Carboniferous and Early Permian, while ghost shrimps invaded marine environments at the Permian–Triassic boundary. In addition, ichnonetwork analysis revealed that the ichnological system simplified across the Permian–Triassic boundary, accounting for a structured Permian ecosystem and fragmented, stressed habitats during the Early Triassic. This scenario is explained by a progressive drying trend that dramatically changed the hydrological features across the Permian–Triassic boundary. This supports the crucial role of global warming in driving the end-Permian crisis and its prolonged recovery.

See Paper

  • Date: 09/01/2014
  • Categories: 1. Palaeoichnology, 2. Paleozoic, 3. Mesozoic, 6. Computational palaeontology
  • Authors: Andrea Baucon et al.
  • Journal: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
  • Volume: 410