Codium -like taxa from the Silurian of North America: morphology, taxonomy, paleoecology, and phylogenetic affinity

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Publication Date



Geography and Geology

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Journal of Paleontology


A 1901 report by the Smithsonian Custodian of Paleozoic Plants noted that the nonbiomineralized taxa Buthotrephis divaricata White, 1901, B. newlini White, 1901, and B. lesquereuxi Grote and Pitt, 1876, from the upper Silurian of the Great Lakes area, shared key characteristics in common with the extant green macroalga Codium. A detailed reexamination of these Codium-like taxa and similar forms from the lower Silurian of Ontario, New York, and Michigan, including newly collected material of Thalassocystis striata Taggart and Parker, 1976, aided by scanning electron microscopy and stable carbon isotope analysis, provides new data in support of an algal affinity. Crucially, as with Codium, the originally cylindrical axes of all of these taxa consist of a complex internal array of tubes divided into distinct medullary and cortical regions, the medullary tubes being arranged in a manner similar to those of living Pseudocodium. In view of these findings, the three study taxa originally assigned to Buthotrephis, together with Chondrites verus Ruedemann, 1925, are transferred to the new algal taxon Inocladus new genus, thereby establishing Inocladus lesquereuxi new combination, Inocladus newlini new comb., Inocladus divaricata new comb., and Inocladus verus new comb. Morphological and paleoecological data point to a phylogenetic affinity for Inocladus n. gen. and Thalassocystis within the Codium-bearing green algal order Bryopsidales, but perhaps nested within an extinct lineage. Collectively, this material fits within a large-scale pattern of major macroalgal morphological diversification initiated in concert with the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event and apparently driven by a marked escalation in grazing pressure.

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