Pteropoda (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Thecosomata) from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (United States Atlantic Coastal Plain)

The response of many organisms to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; ~56 Ma) has been documented, but marine mollusks are not known from any deposits of that age. For the first time, we describe a PETM assemblage of pteropods (planktic mollusks), consisting of six species representing three genera ( Altaspiratella, Heliconoides and Limacina). Four species could be identified to species level, and one of these, Limacina novacaesarea sp. nov., is described as new. Only the genus Heliconoides was previously known from pre-Eocene sediments, with a single Campanian specimen and one latest Paleocene species. We recovered pteropods from the Marlboro Clay (United States Atlantic Coastal Plain), deposited at paleodepths from inner shelf (southern Salisbury Embayment) to middle-outer shelf (New Jersey Coastal Plain). Most living pteropod assemblages inhabit water depths of 200 m or more, so their occurrence at shelf depths may reflect transport from more open waters. During the PETM, pH in the upper waters of the ocean may have declined, but this did not cause dissolution of pteropods before they reached the seafloor, possibly due to buffering in coastal waters. The apparently sudden appearance of three genera could reflect better preservation due to high sedimentation rates, since the underlying and overlying formations show poor preservation of calcareous microfossils. Potential ancestors, however, have not been found anywhere, so we consider it more likely that the rapid environmental changes during the PETM, such as temperature, runoff and nutrient fluxes, and ocean water chemistry, may have triggered pteropod diversification.

Janssen A. W., Sessa J. A. & Thomas E., 2016. Pteropoda (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Thecosomata) from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (United States Atlantic Coastal Plain). Palaeontologia Electronica 19.3.47A:1-26. Article.

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