, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 451–466 | Cite as

Early Ordovician reefs in South China (Chenjiahe section, Hubei Province): deciphering the early evolution of skeletal-dominated reefs

  • Natsuko Adachi
  • Jianbo Liu
  • Yoich Ezaki
Original Article


The Lower Ordovician (late Tremadocian–early Floian) Fenhsiang and the overlying Hunghuayuan Formations at the Chenjiahe section in the Three Gorges area of Hubei Province, South China, include four types of reef: microbe-dominated (lithistid sponge–stromatolite and lithistid sponge–calcimicrobial) reefs, and skeletal-dominated (lithistid sponge–bryozoan and bryozoan–pelmatozoan) reefs. The microbe-dominated reefs are characterized by the dominance of microbial sediments that encrusted and bound the surfaces of sponges to reinforce the reef frameworks. In contrast, the skeletal-dominated reefs are distinguished by bryozoans that encrusted frame-building sponges and pelmatozoans, and that grew downward to fill the open spaces available within the frameworks. A series of these reefs shows a temporal succession in reef type, with a decline in the lithistid sponge–stromatolite reefs and an increase in the lithistid sponges and receptaculitids within the lithistid sponge–calcimicrobial reefs in the Hunghuayuan Formation; the lithistid sponge–bryozoan reefs are common in both the Fenhsiang and Hunghuayuan Formations. These features of the Chenjiahe reefs are in marked contrast to other coeval reefs on the Yangtze Platform and elsewhere. Skeletal-dominated reefs first developed in the Three Gorges and adjacent areas, located on the central part of the platform. Likewise, lithistid sponges and receptaculitids first developed in the Three Gorges area and then expanded their range. In contrast, stromatolites declined over time, but remained abundant on a marginal part of the platform. The spatial–temporal distributions of these reefs on the Yangtze Platform reflect the initiation of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event and its consequences, although influenced by local environmental conditions. The Three Gorges area was a center for the development of skeletal-dominated reefs, which were established earlier here than elsewhere in the world. These reef types and their spatial–temporal successions provide invaluable clues to the earliest evolution of skeletal-dominated reefs and their ensuing development during the Middle–Late Ordovician.


Bryozoan reefs Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event Microbialites Ordovician Skeletal reefs 



We thank Maurice Tucker, Brian Pratt, and Martin Keller for critical comments that improved this manuscript. This research was supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, and the Fujiwara Natural History Foundation, as well as funded by grants from the Scientific Research Fund of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (21340154, 22654062), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40972020, 40825006), and the State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy (113104).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Space SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesOsaka City UniversityOsakaJapan
  3. 3.Department of GeosciencesOsaka City UniversityOsakaJapan

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