Trace fossils from Jurassic lacustrine turbidites of the Anyao Formation (Central China) and their environmental and evolutionary significance

Ichnos: An International Journal for Plant and Animal Traces

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The Lower Jurassic Anyao Formation crops out near Jiyuan city, western Henan Province, central China. It is part of the infill of the nonmarine early Mesozoic Jiyuan‐Yima Basin. In the Jiyuan section, this unit is about 100 m thick and consists of laterally persistent, thin and thick‐bedded turbidite sandstones and mudstones displaying complete and base‐or top‐absent Bouma sequences, and thick‐bedded massive sandstones. The Anyao Formation records sedimentation within a lacustrine turbidite system developed in a pull‐apart basin. Processes involved include high and low density turbidity currents, sometimes affected by liquefaction or fluidization. Facies analysis suggests that this succession is formed by stacked aggradational turbidite lobes. The absence of thick mudstone packages indicates that background sedimentation was subordinate to high frequency turbidite deposition.

The Anyao Formation hosts a moderately diverse ichnofauna preserved as hypichnial casts on the soles of thin‐bedded turbidite sandstones. The ichnofauna consists of Cochlichnus anguineus, Hel‐minthoidichnites tenuis, Helminthopsis abeli, H. hieroglyphica, Mono‐morphichnus lineatus, Paracanthorhaphe togwunia, Tuberculichnus vagans, Vagorichnus anyao, tiny grazing trails, and irregularly branching burrows. Vagorichnus anyao occurs not only as a discrete trace, but also as a compound ichnotaxon intergrading with Gordia marina and Tuberculichnus vagans. Both predepositional and post‐depositional traces are present on the soles of turbidites.

This ichnofauna comprises both feeding and grazing traces produced by a deposit‐feeding lacustrine benthic biota. Crawling traces are rare. Although certain ichnofossils (e.g. V. anyao, P. togwunia) show overall similarities with deep‐sea agrichnia, they differ in reflecting remarkably less specialized feeding strategies, displaying overcrossing between specimens (and to a lesser extent, self‐crossing), and in the case of V’ anyaorecording post‐turbidite burrowing activity. The development of less specialized strategies than those displayed by deep‐marine ichnofaunas may be related to less stable conditions, typical of lake settings. Oxyenation, energy, sedimentation rate (both event and background), food supply, soft‐sediment deformation and erosion rate have mainly influenced trace‐fossil distribution. Turbidity currents would have ensured oxygen (as well as food) supply to deep lake settings, thus allowing the establishment of a moderately diverse biota. Biogenic structures were mostly confined to the outer, low energy areas. High sedimentation rates and strong erosion precluded preservation of ichnofossils in inner lobe settings.

The Anyao ichnofauna is of significance in furthering knowledge of the colonization of deep lakes throughout the stratigraphie record and in identification of additional nonmarine ichnofacies. The ana‐lyzed ichnofauna resembles late Paleozoic lacustrine assemblages described from different localities around the world and is regarded as a Mesozoic example of the Mermia ichnofacies. However, when compared with Paleozoic assemblages, the Anyao ichnofauna shows a clear dominance of burrows over surface trails, deeper burrowing penetration, larger size, and presence of relatively more complex structures. The high burrow/surface trail ratio may be indicative of lower preservation potential in the latter, thus reflecting a tap‐honomic overprint. In contrast to the Paleozoic examples, the establishment of a relatively well‐developed lacustrine infauna may have precluded preservation of surface trails. Burrower activity probably obliterated biogenic structures formed close to the sediment‐water interface.

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Journal Article
Trace fossils from Jurassic lacustrine turbidites of the Anyao Formation (Central China) and their environmental and evolutionary significance
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Ichnos: An International Journal for Plant and Animal Traces
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Taylor & Francis
17 p.
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