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Tubes or cell sheet? A 3-D reconstruction of Halysis Høeg, 1932, from the Upper Ordovician of South China


Halysis is a microfossil found in Ordovician to Devonian shallow-marine carbonates. Up to now, it is only known from thin-sections, and therefore its three-dimensional shape and its systematic position are controversial. Halysis is described as a chain-like microfossil with a shape of the single “chain links” ranging from circular to rounded rectangular. Given that Halysis commonly co-occurs with calcareous algae, it is assumed to also be an alga. Interpretations of the anatomy propose a filiform or tubiform shape. Even a unistratose sheet of cells has been discussed. Since Halysis is comparatively rare, its shape has not been resolved up to now. For the present study, 52 out of several hundred specimens from an Upper Ordovician shallow-water limestone of South China have been investigated in detail, which for the first time offers the opportunity to analyze a great number of sections through Halysis. A three-dimensional computer model of Halysis has been constructed in order to set up planes sectioning the model. These simulated sections have been compared to those from Halysis in thin-sections. The results show that Halysis represents a microfossil with a morphology consisting of parallel juxtaposed, partly branching tubes. A single sheet of cells, which was recently proposed as shape of Halysis, can clearly be excluded.

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The authors are grateful to Birgit Leipner-Mata for her help in thin-section preparation. Furthermore, we thank Robert Riding for exchanging ideas about Halysis, and Bruno Granier for providing insights into his and Alexandre Lethiers’ Blender work. The authors are grateful to Juan Braga, Bruno Granier, and Alexandre Lethiers for their helpful reviews. The study was financially supported by the Chinese Academy of Science (2011ZX05008-001) and National Science Foundation of China (41172034) to ZYD, and by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG Mu 2352/1), the Robert-Bosch-Stiftung (grant no. Nr. 32.5.8003.0009.0), and the Uni-Bund Erlangen to A.M.

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Correspondence to Konstantin Frisch.

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Frisch, K., Munnecke, A., Schulbert, C. et al. Tubes or cell sheet? A 3-D reconstruction of Halysis Høeg, 1932, from the Upper Ordovician of South China. Facies 59, 113–132 (2013).

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  • Calcareous algae
  • Late Ordovician
  • South China
  • 3-D reconstruction
  • Halysis
  • Blender