Devonian ecological-evolutionary subunits in the Appalachian Basin: A revision and a test of persistence and discreteness

Carlton E. Brett, L. C. Ivany, A. J. Bartholomew, M. K. Desantis, G. C. Baird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


New data compilations for successive formation scale intervals, approximately third-order sequences, permit a statistical characterization of the ecological-evolutionary subunits (EESUs) or faunas of the Latest Silurian to mid-Late Devonian interval in the Appalachian Basin. Cluster analysis using the Jaccard coefficient of similarity show that certain formations cluster tightly together on the basis of faunal composition while in other cases units are sharply set off from superseding units. This result indicates both the coherence of faunal composition within EESUs and the discreteness of their boundaries. The results also require minor revision of EESUs previously delineated, including the addition of three new units. The Esopus Formation is designated as a distinct unit separate from the Schoharie on the basis of brachiopods from shallow water facies of the Skunnemunk outlier in New York; in addition, a short-lived Stony Hollow fauna is recognized in shallow shelf facies of the Union Springs Formation and coeval units (formerly referred to as the lower Marcellus Formation) and the lower transgressive beds of the overlying Oatka Creek Formation. This fauna, consisting of subtropical Old World Realm (OWR) emigrants, is distinctive from both the underlying Onondaga fauna and that of the overlying Hamilton Group. Moreover, the Tully Formation presents another case of a short-lived incursion of tropical OWR taxa followed by the extermination of this fauna and reappearance of a suite of typically Hamilton taxa. This case illustrates that EESUs may persist globally despite their local extermination or emigration from a large region, such as the Appalachian Basin. Review of the broader context of EESU turnover suggests that these crises are geologically rapid and synchronous. Moreover, most of the Devonian EESU boundaries coincide with recognized global bioevents, within the limits of combined biostratigraphic and sequence stratigraphic resolution. Hence, these crises, although perhaps locally accentuated in the Appalachian Basin, are allied to global causes. They appear mostly to be associated with rapid rises in sea level, periods of widespread climatic change and hypoxic events in basinal areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-36
Number of pages30
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


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