Skip to main content Accessibility help

Ordovician sponges from the Lenoir Limestone, Tennessee: new evidence for a differential sponge distribution along the margins of Laurentia

  • Marcelo G. Carrera (a1) and Colin D. Sumrall (a2)


Five genera of anthaspidellid and streptosollenid demosponges are described from the Ordovician Lenoir Limestone near Lenoir City, Loudon County, Tennessee, USA including: Rhopalocoelia regularis Raymond and Okulitch, Rugocoelia loudonensis n. sp., Psarodictyum sp. (Anthaspidellidae), Allosacus pedunculatus n. sp., and Zitelella varians Raymond and Okulitch (Streptosolenidae). These findings confirm the major paleobiogeographic picture for Laurentian sponges (i.e., the differential distribution of sponge faunas along both North American margins), because none of these eastern margin species has been reported from western margin faunas. Only one genus typical of the Great Basin fauna, Rugocoelia Johns, 1994, is reported from Tennessee, but as a new species. Possible explanations are discussed for this differential distribution, mainly related to climatic constraints or sedimentary differences, preventing the free distribution of sponge species between Laurentian continental margins.



Corresponding author

*Corresponding author.


Hide All
Adachi, N., Kotani, A., Ezaki, Y., and Liu, J., 2015, Cambrian Series 3 lithistid sponge-microbial reefs in Shandong Province, North China: reef development after the disappearance of archaeocyaths: Lethaia, v. 48, p. 405416.
Alberstadt, L., and Repetski, J.E., 1989, A Lower Ordovician sponge/algal facies in the southern United States and its counterparts elsewhere in North America: Palaios, v. 4, p. 225242.
Bassler, R.S., 1927, A new early Ordovician sponge fauna: Journal of the Washington Academy of Science, v. 17, p. 390394.
Bassler, R.S., 1941, The Nevada Early Ordovician (Pogonip) sponge fauna: United States Natural History Museum, proceedings, v. 91, p. 91102.
Benedict, G.L. III, and Walker, K.R., 1978, Paleobathimetric analysis in Paleozoic sequences and its geodynamic significance: American Journal of Science, v. 278, p. 579607.
Billings, E., 1861, New species of Lower Silurian fossils: Geological Survey of Canada Pamphlet, v. 21, p. 124.
Botting, J.P., and Muir, L.A., 2018, The early evolution of sponges: a review and phylogenetic framework: Palaeoworld, v. 27, p. 129.
Cañas, F. and Carrera, M.G., 1993, Early Ordovician microbial-sponge-receptaculitid bioherms of the Precordillera basin, Western Argentina: Facies, v. 29, p. 169178.
Carrera, M.G., 1996, Nuevos poríferos de la Formación San Juan (Ordovícico), Precordillera Argentina: Ameghiniana, v. 33, p. 335342.
Carrera, M.G., 2003, Sponges and Bryozoans, in Benedetto, J.L., ed., Ordovician Fossils of Argentina: Secretaria de Ciencia y Técnica, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, p. 155186.
Carrera, M.G. and Botting, J. P., 2008, Evolutionary history of Cambrian spiculate sponges: implications for the Cambrian evolutionary fauna: Palaios, v. 23, p. 124138.
Carrera, M.G. and Rigby, J.K., 1999, Biogeography of the Ordovician sponges: Journal of Paleontology, v. 73, p. 2637.
Carrera, M.G. and Rigby, J.K., 2004, Sponges, in Webby, B.D., Droser, M.L., Paris, F., and Percival, I.G., eds., The Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event: New York, Columbia University Press, p. 102111.
Carrera, M.G., Astini, R., and Gomez, F., 2017, A lowermost Ordovician tabulate-like coralomorph from the Precordillera of western Argentina: a main component of a reef-framework consortium: Journal of Paleontology, v. 91, p. 7385
Choh, S.J., Hong, J., Sun, N., Kwon, S.W., Park, T.Y., Woo, J., Kwon, Y.K., Lee, D.C., and Lee, D.J., 2013, Early Ordovician reefs from the Taebaek Group, Korea: constituents, types, and geological implications: Association of Korean Geoscience Societies and Springer, Geosciences Journal, v. 17, p. 139149.
Church, S.B., 1974, Lower Ordovician path reefs in western Utah: Brigham Young University Geology Studies, v. 21, p. 4162.
De Freitas, T.A., 1989, Silurian Archaeoscyphia from the Canadian Arctic: a case for simplified generic taxonomy in the anthaspidellid lithistids (Porifera): Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 26, p. 18611879.
Finks, R.M., and Rigby, J.K., 2004, Paleozoic demosponges, in Kaesler, R.L., ed., Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part E, Porifera 3 (revised): Boulder, CO and Lawrence, KS, Geological Society of America and University of Kansas Press, p. E9E173.
Greife, J.L., and Langenheim, R.L. Jr., 1963, Sponges and brachiopods from the Middle Ordovician Mazourka Formation, Independence Quadrangle, California: Journal of Paleontology, v. 37, p. 564574.
Hodych, J.P., Cox, R.A., and Kosler, J., 2004, An equatorial Laurentia at 550 Ma confirmed by Grenvillian inherited zircons dated by LAM ICP-MS in the Skinner Cove volcanics of western Newfoundland: implications for inertial interchange true polar wander: Precambrian Research, v. 129, p. 93113.
Johns, R.A., 1994, Ordovician lithistid sponges of the Great Basin: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Open-file Report 94, 200 p.
Klappa, C.F., and James, N.P., 1980, Small lithistid sponge bioherms, early Middle Ordovician Table Head Group, Western Newfoundland: Bulletin Canadian Petroleum Geologists, v. 28, p. 425451.
Kröger, B., Hints, L., and Lehnert, O., 2017, Ordovician reef and mound evolution: the Baltoscandian picture: Geological Magazine v. 154, p. 683706.
Li, Q., Li, Y., Wang, J., and Kiessling, W., 2015, Early Ordovician lithistid sponge-Calathium reefs on the Yangtze Platform and their paleoceanographic implications: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 425, p. 8496.
Marshak, S., and Paulsen, T., 1996, Midcontinent U.S. fault and fold zones: a legacy of Proterozoic intracratonic extensional tectonism?: Geology, v. 24, p. 151154.
Miller, A.I., and Mao, M., 1995, Association of orogenic activity with the Ordovician radiation of marine life: Geology, v. 23, p. 305308.
Miller, S.A., 1889, North American Geology and Palaeontology for the use of amateurs, students, and scientists: Cinncinati, Western Methodist Book Concern, 664 p.
Muir, L.A., Botting, J.P., Carrera, M., and Beresi, M., 2013, Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian non-stromatoporoid Porifera, in Harper, D.A.T., and Servais, T., eds., Early Palaeozoic Palaeobiogeography and Palaeogeography: Geological Society of London, Memoir 38, p. 81–95.
Myers, A., Sumrall, C.D., and Johns, R.A., 2009, An Ordovician orchoclad demosponge fauna from the Lenoir Limestone of East Tennessee: North American Paleontological Convention Abstract with Program, p. 328–329.
Pratt, B.R., 1989, Early Ordovician cryptalgal-sponge reefs, Survey Peak Formation, Rocky Mountains, Alberta, in Geldsetzer, H.H.J., James, N.P., and Tebbutt, E., eds., Reefs, Canada and Adjacent Areas: Canadian Society Petroleum Geologists Memoir 13, p. 213217.
Pratt, B.R., and James, N.P., 1982, Cryptalgal-metazoan bioherms of Early Ordovician age in the St. George Group, Western Newfoundland: Sedimentology, v. 29, p. 543569.
Pruss, S.B., Finnegan, S., Fischer, W., and Knoll, A.H., 2010, Carbonates in skeleton-poor seas: new insights from Cambrian and Ordovician strata of Laurentia: Palaios v. 25, p. 7384.
Rauff, H., 1895, Palaeospongiologie: Palaeontographica, v. 41, p. 223271.
Raymond, P., and Okulitch, V., 1940, Some Chazyan sponges: Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard College, v. 86, p. 197214.
Rigby, J.K., 1967a, Two new Early Paleozoic sponges and the sponge-like organism Gaspespongia basalis Parks, from the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec: Journal of Paleontology, v. 41, p. 766775.
Rigby, J.K., 1967b, A new polyactinal sponge from the Antelope Valley Formation (Ordovician) in the Toquima Range, Nevada: Journal of Paleontology, v. 41, p. 511515.
Rigby, J.K., 1977, Two new Middle Ordovician sponges from Foxe Plain, Southeastern District of Franklin: Geological Survey of Canada, Bulletin, v. 269, p. 121129.
Rigby, J.K., 1995, The hexactinellid sponge Cyathophycus from the Lower–Middle Ordovician Vinini Formation of central Nevada: Journal of Paleontology, v. 69, p. 409416.
Rigby, J.K., and Chidsey, T., 1976, A well preserved Calycocoelia typicalis Bassler (Porifera) from the Ordovician Fort Peña Formation of western Texas: Brigham Young University Geology Studies, v. 23, p. 38.
Rigby, J.K., and Desrochers, A., 1995, Lower and Middle Ordovician lithistid demosponges from the Mingan Islands, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, Canada: The Paleontological Society, Memoir 41, 35 p.
Rigby, J.K., and Toomey, D.F., 1978, A distinctive sponge spicule assemblage from organic buildups in the Lower Ordovician of Southern Oklahoma: Journal of Paleontology, v. 52, p. 501506.
Rigby, J.K., Nitecki, M., Zhu, Z., Liu, B., and Jiang, Y., 1995, Lower Ordovician reefs of Hubei, China, and the western United States, in Cooper, J.D., Droser, M.L., and Finney, S., eds., Ordovician Odyssey: Seventh International Symposium on the Ordovician System, SEPM Pacific Section, Las Vegas, p. 423428.
Scotese, C.R., 2016, PALEOMAP Project. [Available at]
Shanmugam, G., and Walker, K.R., 1983, Anatomy of the middle Ordovician Sevier Shale basin, eastern Tennessee: Sedimentary Geology, v. 34, p. 315337.
Sollas, W.J., 1875, Sponges: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed.: Edinburgh, Adam & Charles Black, p. 427446.
Thomas, W., 2006, Tectonic inheritance at a continental margin: Geology Today, v. 16, no. 2, p. 411.
Toomey, D., and Nitecki, M., 1979, Organic buildups in the Lower Ordovician (Canadian) of Texas and Oklahoma: Fieldiana, Geology, new series, v. 2, 181 p.
Ulrich, E.O., and Everett, O., 1890, Description of Lower Silurian sponges: Bulletin of the Geological Survey of Illinois, v. 8, p. 253282.
Walker, K.R., and Benedict, G.L. III., 1980, Lenoir, Holston, and Ottosee formations: shallow shelf lagoon, deeper shelf, and shelf margin environments, in Walker, K.E., Broadhead, T.W., and Keller, F.B., eds., Middle Ordovician Carbonate Shelf to Deep Water Basin Deposition in the Southern Appalachians: University of Tennessee Department of Geological Sciences, Studies in Geology, v. 4, p. 4865.
Wang, J., Deng, X., Wang, G., and Li, Y., 2012, Types and biotic successions of Ordovician reefs in China: Chinese Science Bulletin, v. 57, p. 11601168.
Webby, B.D., 1984, Ordovician reefs and climate: a review, in Bruton, D.L., ed., Aspects of the Ordovician System: Oslo, Palaeontological Contributions from the University of Oslo, p. 89100.
Witzke, B.J., 1990, Paleoclimatic constraints for Paleozoic palaeolatitudes of Laurentia and Euamerica, in McKerrow, W.S., and Scotese, C.R., eds., Paleozoic Paleogeography and Biogeography: Geological Society of London Memoir, v. 12, p. 5773.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed