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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15


  1. Bian LZ, Liu ZY (1999) Discovery of Late Ordovician algal fossils of Oedogoniales in Jiangxi Province, China. Acta Palaeont Sinica 38:46–49

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bian LZ, Zhou XP (1990) Calcareous algae from the Sanqushan formation (Upper Ordovician) at the border area between Zhejiang Province and Jiangxi Province. J Nanjing Univ (Earth Sci) 3:1–23

    Google Scholar 

  3. Feng Q, Gong YM, Riding R (2010) Mid-Late Devonian calcified marine algae and cyanobacteria, South China. J Paleont 84:569–587

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Granier B (2010) Bucurella, a new genus of the Thyrsoporelleae (fossil Dasycladalean algae). Carnets Géol/Notebook Geol Art 2010/03 (CG2010_A03)

  5. Guilbault JP, Hubert C, Mamet B (1976) Nuia et Halysis, deux algues ordoviciennes enigmatiques des Basses-Terres du Saint-Laurent. Nat Can 103:119–131

    Google Scholar 

  6. Høeg OA (1932) Ordovician algae from the Trondheim area. In: Kiær J (ed) The Hovin Group in the Trondheim area, II, Paleontological part. Skr utgift Nor Vidensk Akad Oslo Matem-Naturv Kl, vol 1927, pp 63–96

  7. Mamet B, Shalaby H (1995) Algues benthiques ordoviciennes de la plateforme du Saint-Laurent. Rev Micropaléont 38:229–244

    Google Scholar 

  8. Mamet B, Roux A, Lapointe M, Gauthier L (1992) Algues ordoviciennes et siluriennes de l’île d’Anticosti (Québec, Canada). Rev Micropaléont 35:211–248

    Google Scholar 

  9. Mathieu R, Bellier J-P, Granier B (2011) Manuel de Micropaléontologie. Carnets de Géologie, Brest, Livre 2011/02 (CG2011_B02)

  10. Munnecke A, Servais T, Vachard D (2001) Halysis Høeg, 1932—a problematic Cyanophyceae: new evidence from the Silurian of Gotland (Sweden). N Jb Geol Paläont Mh 1:21–42

    Google Scholar 

  11. Munnecke A, Zhang Y, Liu X, Cheng J (2011) Stable carbon isotope stratigraphy in the Ordovician of South China. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 307:17–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Odin GS (2008) Déscription et illustration de quarante-quatre gilianelles (microproblematica) et de dix autres microproblematica du Crétacé de la coupe stratotypique de Tercis (limite Campanien-Maastrichtien), Sud-Ouest France. Carnets Géol/Notebook Geol Mém 2008/01 (CG2008_M01)

  13. Odin GS (2010) Traces de volcanisme explosif dans le Campanien pyrénéen aux alentours du stratotype de limite Campanien-Maastrichtien à Tercis (SO France, N Espagne). Repérage biostratigraphique avec une étude particulière du foraminifère Radotruncana calcarata. Carnets Géol/Notebook Geol Art 2010/02 (CG2010_A02)

  14. Odin GS, Lethiers A (2006) Nouvelles études micropaléontologiques sur le stratotype de la limite Campanien-Maastrichtien à Tercis (SO France): les gilianelles (microproblematica) extraites par acétolyse. Carnets Géol/Notebook Geol Art 2006/05 (CG2006_A05)

  15. Poncet L (1986) Les algues calcaires du Paléozoïques inférieur de la Bai d’Hudson et de l’Archipel Arctique Canadien. Bull Centr Rech Explor Prod Elf Aquitaine 10:259–282

    Google Scholar 

  16. Riding R, Braga JC (2005) Halysis Høeg, 1932—an Ordovician coralline red alga? J Paleont 79:835–841

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Roux A (1985) Introduction à l’étude des algues fossiles paléozoïques (de la bactérie a la tectonique des plaques). Bull Centr Rech Explor Prod Elf Aquitaine 9:465–699

    Google Scholar 

  18. Shuysky VP (1973) Calcareous reef-building algae from the Lower Devonian of the Ural Mountains. Akad Nauka SSSR, Oural, Nautch Tsentz, Inst Geol Geokhim

  19. Woelkerling WJ (1988) The coralline red algae: an analysis of the genera and subfamilies of nongeniculate Corallinaceae. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Konstantin Frisch.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation


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