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Significance of stromatoporoids in Jurassic reefs and carbonate platforms—concepts and implications

  • Leinfelder, Reinhold R.1, 2, 3
  • Schlagintweit, Felix4
  • Werner, Winfried2, 3
  • Ebli, Oskar2
  • Nose, Martin2, 3
  • Schmid, Dieter U.1, 3
  • Hughes, G. Wyn5
  • 1 Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Richard-Wagner-Str. 10, Munich, 80333, Germany , Munich
  • 2 Bavarian State Collection of Palaeontology and Geology, Richard-Wagner-Str. 10, Munich, 80333, Germany , Munich
  • 3 GeoBio-Center at LMU, Richard-Wagner-Str. 10, Munich, 80333, Germany , Munich
  • 4 Montan University of Leoben, Institute for Earth Sciences, Leoben, A-8700, Austria , Leoben
  • 5 Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), Dharhan, Saudi Arabia , Dharhan
Published Article
Publication Date
Aug 23, 2005
DOI: 10.1007/s10347-005-0055-8
Springer Nature


Although many case studies describe stromatoporoid-rich Jurassic reefs, there are only few reliable data as to their distribution pattern. This is in part due to a largely taxonomic and systematic focus on the enigmatic stromatoporoids which now are interpreted as a polyphyletic informal group of demosponges by most specialists. The common co-occurrence of Jurassic scleractinian corals and stromatoporoids might, at first hand, point to very similar environmental demands of both organismic groups, but autecological considerations as well as evaluation of stromatoporoid distribution patterns should allow for a much more refined interpretation. This study concludes that Jurassic corals and stromatoporoids show a relatively broad overlap of environmental demands but their maximum ecological tolerances appear to differ considerably. Jurassic corals were dominating in mesotrophic to mildly oligotrophic, slightly deeper settings, where they largely outcompeted stromatoporoids. On the other hand, stromatoporoid growth was particularly favoured in very shallow water, strongly abrasive, high-energy settings as well as in possibly overheated waters. Many taxa and growth forms were very tolerant towards frequent reworking and redistribution, a feature which is compatible with the sponge nature of the stromatoporoids. As such, stromatoporoid facies may be common in low-accommodation regimes, giving rise to frequent “shelf shaving” and redistribution across wide shelf areas. The mixed coral-stromatoporoid reefs from the margins of isolated Intra-Tethys platforms are interpreted to be indicative of oligotrophic normal marine waters. This is corroborated by statistical cluster analysis of stromatoporoid taxa from representative areas. In addition, Arabian stromatoporoid occurrences might have been adapted to overheated and slightly hypersaline waters. There also are a few exceptional stromatoporoid taxa which might have had environmental tolerances different from the bulk tolerances of other Jurassic stromatoporoids. Part of our interpretations are preliminary and should stimulate further research. However, the present results already help explain the observed compositional differences between Jurassic North Tethys/North Atlantic, Intra-Tethys, and South Tethys shallow-water reefs and platforms.

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