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Paleoecologic and taxonomic implications of Sphenothallus and Sphenothallus-like specimens from Ohio and areas adjacent to Ohio

  • Maxwell Lewis Neal (a1) (a2) and Joseph T. Hannibal (a1)

Sphenothallus and fossils similar to Sphenothallus are found in Ordovician, Devonian, and Mississippian rock units in Ohio and adjacent states and provinces. Although the Ordovician of Québec, Ontario, and Indiana has yielded parts of tubes, Ordovician specimens from southwest Ohio and nearby areas consist almost entirely of holdfasts on hardgrounds and shelly fossils. Sphenothallus is abundant in the Chagrin Shale (Famennian) of northeast Ohio where it is found in about four percent of concretions that contain identifiable fossils. The Chagrin specimens, usually parts of tubes, are occasionally preserved three-dimensionally. The rate of distal expansion of Chagrin Sphenothallus tubes varies intraspecifically; thus, this rate cannot be used to distinguish species. Some Chagrin specimens are attached to larger, conspecific specimens and to articulate brachiopods. Brachiopods have also been found attached to Chagrin Sphenothallus. Bedford-Berea sequence (Famennian) specimens from northern Kentucky and Meadville Member (Kinderhookian or Osagian) specimens from the Cuyahoga Formation of northeast Ohio are usually preserved as flattened tubes. In both occurrences tubes are similar in width, indicating that individuals in each assemblage are probably the same age. Meadville tubes possess characteristics diagnostic of Sphenothallus, but Bedford-Berea specimens, which lack longitudinal thickenings and exhibit little tube tapering, cannot be assigned to Sphenothallus sensu strictu.

Sphenothallus was a gregarious, opportunistic species, tolerant of dysaerobic conditions and able to colonize environments ranging from hardgrounds to soft, muddy sea bottoms. No distinct branching was observed among the Chagrin, Bedford-Berea, or Meadville specimens, suggesting that larval dispersal was the primary mode of reproduction for the genus.

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