Early Middle Triassic stromatolites from the Luoping area, Yunnan Province, Southwest China: Geobiologic features and environmental implications
Luo et al
An early Middle Triassic stromatolite deposit is documented from the Guanling Formation of the Luoping area, Yunnan, SW China. The Luoping stromatolite shows five types of constructional microbial forms in various magnifications: 1) typical stratified columnar structures, up to 20 cm high, with crinkled laminae. Dark coloured laminae, 1 mm thick, are composed of upright filamentous tubes, averagely 29.4 μm in diameter, showing a vertical growth fabric. 2) Laminoid fenestrae, 0.5–1 mm wide, and 3) prostrate filaments, which are reflected by strong fluorescence in sharp contrast to dolomite cement in fluorescent images. 4) Rod-like aggregates, 4.6–18 μm in diameter, composed of minute dolomite rhombs, are very common in stromatolitic laminae; they resemble present-day cyanobacterial trichome, and thus may represent putative fossilized cyanobacteria. 5) Moreover, small pits, coccoid-like spheroids, calcified biofilms, and fibrous structures are also common in stromatolitic laminae. The last two may represent calcified extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that contributed to the development and lithification of stromatolites. Authigenic quartz grains are common and may also have involved biological processes in stromatolite formation. Of these microbial functional-groups driving accretion and lithification processes of stromatolite documented in literature, both lithified cyanobacteria/oxygenic phototrophs and possible sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), which induced microbial formation of dolomite and contributed to the accretion of the Luoping stromatolite, are suggestive of biogenic origin. The Luoping stromatolite differs from the Permian–Triassic boundary microbialites (PTBMs) in having abundant filamentous structures and growing in an oxic marine environment. Both sedimentary facies analysis and abundant fossilized cyanobacteria may indicate proliferation of oxygenic phototrophs in a normal, oxic habitat during the middle Anisian (early Middle Triassic), a period when hospitable environments, coupled with biotic diversification, prevailed in South China and set an agenda for the full recovery of marine ecosystems in middle–late Anisian. However, the post-extinction stromatolites and other anachronistic facies are not necessarily indicative of anoxic or oxic conditions, and their environmental settings are much more complex than previously thought.