, Volume 101, Issue 6, pp 467–477 | Cite as

First report of fossil “keratose” demosponges in Phanerozoic carbonates: preservation and 3-D reconstruction

  • Cui Luo
  • Joachim ReitnerEmail author
Original Paper


Fossil record of Phanerozoic non-spicular sponges, beside of being important with respect to the lineage evolution per se, could provide valuable references for the investigation of Precambrian ancestral animal fossils. However, although modern phylogenomic studies resolve non-spicular demosponges as the sister group of the remaining spiculate demosponges, the fossil record of the former is extremely sparse or unexplored compared to that of the latter; the Middle Cambrian Vauxiidae Walcott 1920, is the only confirmed fossil taxon of non-spicular demosponges. Here, we describe carbonate materials from Devonian (Upper Givetian to Lower Frasnian) bioherms of northern France and Triassic (Anisian) microbialites of Poland that most likely represent fossil remnants of keratose demosponges. These putative fossils of keratose demosponges are preserved as automicritic clumps. They are morphologically distinguishable from microbial fabrics but similar to other spiculate sponge fossils, except that the skeletal elements consist of fibrous networks instead of assembled spicules. Consistent with the immunological behavior of sponges, these fibrous skeletons often form a rim at the edge of the automicritic aggregate, separating the inner part of the aggregate from foreign objects. To confirm the architecture of these fibrous networks, two fossil specimens and a modern thorectid sponge for comparison were processed for three-dimensional (3-D) reconstruction using serial grinding tomography. The resulting fossil reconstructions are three-dimensionally anastomosing, like modern keratose demosponges, but their irregular and nonhierarchical meshes indicate a likely verongid affinity, although a precise taxonomic conclusion cannot be made based on the skeletal architecture alone. This study is a preliminary effort, but an important start to identify fossil non-spicular demosponges in carbonates and to re-evaluate their fossilization potential.


Keratose demosponges Fossil sponges Carbonates Automicrite Devonian Triassic 



We thank Dr. Steffen Kiel (University of Göttingen) for his help and suggestions concerning the grinding tomography method and Axel Hackmann and Wolfgang Dröse for the laboratory support. The beneficial comments from Dr. Imran Rahman (University of Bristol) are also appreciated. This research was sponsored by the Excellence Initiative-DFG, Courant Research Centre of Geobiology, Göttingen. The China Scholarship Council (CSC) financially supported the doctoral studies of the first author at the University of Göttingen.

Supplementary material

Supp. 1a

Consecutively ground planes of Boul (Devonian) (MPG 5484 kb)

Supp. 1b

3-D reconstruction of sample Boul (Devonian) without manual interpretation. (MPG 21240 kb)

Supp. 1c

3-D reconstruction of a part of Boul (Devonian) with minimum interpretation. See Fig. 4c for the exact location of the reconstructed area (MPG 15792 kb)

Supp. 1d

3-D reconstruction of a part of Boul (Devonian) with moderate manual interpretation. See Fig. 4c for the exact location of the reconstructed area (MPG 16166 kb)

Supp. 1e

3-D reconstruction of a part of Boul (Devonian) with intensive manual interpretation. See Fig. 4c for the exact location of the reconstructed area (MPG 17214 kb)

Supp. 2a

Consecutively ground planes of Pol (Triassic) (MPG 2766 kb)

Supp. 2b

3-D reconstruction of sample Pol (Triassic) (MPG 15710 kb)

Supp. 2c

3-D reconstruction of a part of Pol (Triassic). See Fig. 4b for the exact location of the reconstructed area (MPG 13528 kb)

114_2014_1176_MOESM9_ESM.mpg (1.1 mb)
Supp. 3a Consecutively ground planes of Au (thorectid Keratosa, Recent) (MPG 1110 kb)
Supp. 3b

3-D reconstruction of sample Au (thorectid Keratosa, Recent) (MPG 8758 kb)

114_2014_1176_MOESM11_ESM.mpg (11.2 mb)
Supp. 3c 3-D reconstruction of a part of Au. See Fig. 4a for the exact location of the reconstructed area (MPG 11474 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geobiology, Centre of GeosciencesUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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