From museum drawers to ocean drilling: Fenneria gen. nov. (Bacillariophyta) offers new insights into Eocene marine diatom biostratigraphy and palaeobiogeography

Jakub Witkowski


Triceratium barbadense Greville, 1861a, T. brachiatum Brightwell, 1856, T. inconspicuum Greville, 1861b and T. kanayae Fenner, 1984a, are among the most common diatoms reported worldwide from lower to middle Eocene biosiliceous sediments. Due to complicated nomenclatural histories, however, they are often confused. A morphometric analysis performed herein indicates that T. brachiatum is conspecific with T. inconspicuum, and that both were previously often misidentified as T. barbadense. Triceratium barbadense sensu stricto is a distinct species similar to Triceratium castellatum West, 1860. Triceratium brachiatum and T. kanayae are transferred herein to a new genus, Fenneria, for which a close phylogenetic relationship with Medlinia Sims, 1998 is proposed. A review of the geographic and stratigraphic distribution of Fenneria shows that the best constrained records of its occurrences are found at DSDP Site 338, and ODP Sites 1051 and 1260. The ages of the base (B) and top (T) of each species’ stratigraphic range are calibrated here to the Geomagnetic Polarity timescale either directly or inferred via correlation with dinocyst biostratigraphy. Latitudinal diachroneity of ~7 million years is documented  for F. brachiata, which disappears earlier in tropical and mid-latitude sites than in the northern high latitudes. These observations, coupled with a preliminary compilation of the Chron C20n taxonomic composition of pelagic diatom assemblages for Sites 338, 1051 and 1260, indicate that diatoms diversified palaeobiogeographically considerably earlier than the Eocene−Oligocene Transition, as commonly believed. This study also emphasizes the importance of the detailed examination of specimens from both museum collections and deep-sea cores as a step toward enhancing the utility of Palaeogene diatoms in palaeoceanographic and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.


Triceratium barbadense, Triceratium brachiatum, Triceratium inconspicuum, Triceratium kanayae, Palaeogene, fossil diatoms, taxonomy, biostratigraphy, palaeobiogeography

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