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Early Silurian chitinozoans from the Qusaiba type area, North Central Saudi Arabia

Abstract : Sixty one core samples from three shallow core holes (Qusaiba-1, Baq'a-3 and Baq'a-4) penetrating the Qalibah Formation (Qusaiba Member) in the North Central Saudi Arabia were investigated. These core slabs corresponding to grey–greenish hemipelagic shale or silty-shale yield well-preserved and very abundant early Silurian chitinozoans. Most of the recorded chitinozoan assemblages are diverse and include several new species occurring with well-known species. An informal early Rhuddanian chitinozoan assemblage dominated by Cyathochitina caputoi is documented in the lowermost part of the Qusaiba Member. The six chitinozoan biozones defined above this basal assemblage range from Aeronian to Telychian. They are considered of regional value for northern Gondwana. From the lowest to the highest they are the Angochitina qusaibaensis (pro parte), Conochitina alargada, Angochitina hemeri, Angochitina macclurei, Tanuchitina obtusa and Euconochitina silurica biozones. The older regional biozones have been previously documented in Saudi Arabia whereas the two youngest ones, the eponymous index species of which were described from the subsurface of the Algerian Sahara, are documented for the first time in the Arabian Peninsula. Four subbiozones, of at least of regional application, are also defined in order to improve the precision of biostratigraphic correlation between Silurian lithostratigraphic units cropping out along the Arabian Shield and their counterparts in the subsurface of Central Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the closely spaced and to the regular sampling, the total range of several highly diagnostic forms as well as the interval of uncertainty between the successive chitinozoan biozones are better constrained. A hiatus with a duration of late Rhuddanian to early Aeronian separates the lowest informal chitinozoan assemblage from the qusaibaensis Biozone. A recent detailed study of the graptolites in the three cored holes provides independent chronostratigraphical control calibrating the previous chitinozoan-based age assignments. The qusaibaensis (pro parte), the alargada, and the hemeri chitinozoan biozones occur with the mid-Aeronian convolutus graptolite Biozone whereas the macclurei chitinozoan Biozone extends through the early Telychian guerichi and turriculatus graptolite biozones. The obtusa and the silurica chitinozoan biozones occur in an interval devoid of usable graptolites. They are referred to the mid–late Telychian as they do not contain typical Sheinwoodian species.Besides the abundant chitinozoans and acritarchs, sporadic occurrences of scolecodonts and of eurypterid cuticle fragments are also noted in the organic residues. The presence of eurypterids reflects a shallowing trend in the sedimentary record, which is consistent with the distribution of the graptolite remains (siculae and/or rhabdosomes). Indeed, graptolites are common throughout the Qusaiba Member, except in the youngest processed samples presaging the shallower environments prevalent in the Sharawra Member. The taphonomy of the chitinozoans (isolated vesicles, chain-like structures, clusters, coprolites) and their environmental context is briefly discussed.Fifteen new species are described and illustrated: Ancyrochitina alhajrii sp. nov., Ancyrochitina camilleae sp. nov., Armoricochitina crassicarinata sp. nov., Armoricochitina gengi sp. nov., Bursachitina baqaensis sp. nov., Conochitina viiuae sp. nov., Cutichitina minivelata sp. nov., Cyathochitina neolatipatagium sp. nov., Fungochitina merrelli sp. nov., Muscochitina olivieri sp. nov., Plectochitina alisawyiahensis sp. nov., Plectochitina alnaimi sp. nov., Plectochitina jaquelineae sp. nov., Plectochitina lucasi sp. nov., and Spinachitina geerti sp. nov.Keywords
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Florentin Paris, Merrell A. Miller, Sa'Id Al-Hajri, Jan Zalasiewicz. Early Silurian chitinozoans from the Qusaiba type area, North Central Saudi Arabia. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Elsevier, 2015, 212, pp.127-186. ⟨10.1016/j.revpalbo.2014.08.010⟩. ⟨insu-01094288⟩

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