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The Early Triassic Jurong fish fauna, South China: Age, anatomy, taphonomy, and global correlation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-50
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Early online date30 May 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 29 May 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 30 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Sep 2019


As the higher trophic guilds in marine food chains, top predators such as larger fishes and reptiles are important indicators that a marine ecosystem has recovered following a crisis. Early Triassic marine fishes and reptiles therefore are key proxies in reconstructing the ecosystem recovery process after the end-Permian mass extinction. In South China, the Early Triassic Jurong fish fauna is the earliest marine vertebrate assemblage in the recovery period. It is constrained as mid-late Smithian in age based on both conodont biostratigraphy and carbon isotopic correlations. The Jurong fishes are all preserved in calcareous nodules embedded in black shale of the Lower Triassic Lower Qinglong Formation, and the fauna comprises at least three genera of Paraseminotidae and Perleididae. The phosphatic fish bodies often show exceptionally preserved interior structures, including network structures of possible organ walls and cartilages. Microanalysis reveals the well-preserved micro-structures (i.e. collagen layers) of teleost scales and fish fins. Abundant small pyrite framboids, 2–5 μm in diameter, are detected from the nodules and fish body surfaces, indicating a calm, euxinic burial environment. Coccoid-like microspheroids are also very abundant in the host rocks and near the fish fossil surfaces, implying that microbes may have participated in the burial process of the fishes. Taphonomic analysis uncovers the four-step formation process of the fish nodules. (1) Fishes lived in the oxic seawater in the upper ocean, and (2) their bodies sank to the anoxic seabed after death, with the body surface being wrapped by bacteria. (3) Microbial biofilms sealed body surfaces to prevent or delay the decay of the fleshy body. The decomposition of the body cavity and interior organs produced some CO2 and H2S gases. The former formed bicarbonate ions in seawater and attracted calcium ions to facilitate the precipitation of calcium carbonate, while the H2S combined with iron ions in seawater to form pyrite framboids. (4) The fish nodule gradually grew by precipitation of calcium carbonate in layers and embedding with pyrite framboids, and later the fish fossil nodule was compacted during diagenesis. Global faunal correlations indicate that the Jurong fishes are closely related to the Early Triassic fish faunas from Chaohu, Anhui Province and Madagascar.

    Research areas

  • Ecosystem, Fish nodule, Lower Triassic, Redox condition, Taphonomy



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