Palaeoecology and palaeoenvironment of Mississippian coastal lakes and marshes during the early terrestrialisation of tetrapods

Bennett, C.E.; Kearsey, T.I.; Davies, S.J.; Leng, M.J. ORCID:; Millward, D.; Smithson, T.R.; Brand, P.J.; Browne, M.A.E.; Carpenter, D.K.; Marshall, J.E.A.; Dulson, H.; Curry, L.. 2021 Palaeoecology and palaeoenvironment of Mississippian coastal lakes and marshes during the early terrestrialisation of tetrapods. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 564, 110194.

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The Ballagan Formation of northern Britain provides an exceptional record of Early Mississippian ecosystems that developed as tetrapods emerged onto land. In this paper, we study two 500-metre sections of the formation near Berwick-upon-Tweed, which are characterised by abundant ferroan dolostone beds. Five lithofacies are identified: cemented siltstone and sandstone, homogeneous dolomicrite, mixed dolomite and siltstone, mixed calcite and dolomite, and dolomite with evaporite minerals. Cemented sediments have non-planar to planar subhedral dolomite crystals, up to 40 μm in size, whereas other facies predominantly comprise dolomicrite or planar euhedral dolomite rhombs 15 μm in size, with patches of larger rhombs indicating partial recrystallisation. The macro- and microfossil content of the dolostones is dominated by sarcopterygian (rhizodont) and actinopterygian fish, bivalves, Serpula, ostracods and Chondrites trace fossils; with rarer Spirorbis, chondrichthyans (Ageleodus, hybodonts and ?ctenacanths, xenacanths), non-gyracanth acanthodians, gastropods, eurypterids, brachiopods, plant debris, wood, lycopsid roots, charcoal, megaspores, phycosiphoniform burrows, Zoophycos? and Rhizocorallium. The oxygen and carbon isotope composition of dolomites range from –3.6‰ to –1.7‰ (for δ18O) and –2.6‰ to +1.6‰ (for δ13C) respectively indicating dolomite growth in mixed salinity waters. Frequent marine storm-surge events transported marine waters and animals into floodplain lakes, where evaporation, interstitial sulphate-reducing bacteria, iron reduction and methanogenesis allowed dolomite growth in the shallow sub-surface. Secondary pedogenic modification (by roots, brecciation, desiccation, and soil forming processes) is common and represents lake evaporation with, in some cases, saline marsh development. The dolostone facies are part of a complex environmental mosaic of sub-aerial dry floodplain, wet marshy floodplains, rivers, and lakes ranging in salinity from freshwater to hypersaline. Marine influence is strongest at the base of the formation and decreases over time, as the floodplain became drier, and forested areas became more established. Coastal lakes were an important habitat for animals recovering from the end-Devonian Hangenberg Crisis and may have acted as a pathway for euryhaline fishes, molluscs and arthropods to access freshwater environments.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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ISSN: 00310182
Date made live: 07 Jan 2021 11:18 +0 (UTC)

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