Pioneer colonization, evidenced by Rhizocorallium in the Middle Triassic of Poland


  • Michał Stachacz


A large collection of the trace fossil Rhizocorallium from the Middle Triassic of the Polish part of the Germanic Basin (Peri-Tethys) is analysed and their ichnotaxonomical classification presented. Special attention is given to the deep form of Rhizocorallium with a vertical retrusive spreite, filled with faecal pellets, with detailed documentation of this structure, based on isolated specimens and serial sections. This analysis also reveals ∩-shaped and deep, protrusive structures. A former interpretation of Rhizocorallium as a rapidly formed fugichnion is not followed here; instead, an interpretation of the trace fossil as a complex fodinichnion is proposed. Scavengers and their relation to crinoid meadows, as well as predators, are indicated as potential tracemakers of some Rhizocorallium. Although Rhizocorallium is common throughout the Middle Triassic, unusual forms and the domination of substrates by Rhizocorallium in general mostly occur in the transgressive system of the lowermost Muschelkalk, and in regressive, marginal facies of the lower Keuper. Such a distribution of unusual forms of Rhizocorallium is interpreted as representing opportunistic, pioneer burrow assemblages that developed during the long-term benthic recovery after the P-T crisis, or in unfavourable conditions generally. Moreover, dynamic conditions with mixed clastic-carbonate sedimentation and rapidly varying salinity promoted smooth transitions from Rhizocorallium to Diplocraterion. Similar successions of dominant trace-fossil assemblages, of comparable sizes, occur in many sections around the world and demonstrate the record of slow recovery that continued through the Middle Triassic. The illustrated record of evolution of the Middle Triassic Rhizocorallium assemblages in Poland documents the last two stages of benthos recovery after the P-T boundary. A similar situation is observed around the world and, in many cases, great abundance of Rhizocorallium seems to be an indication of pioneer burrowing in dynamic, unfavourable environments.