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Nature. 2004 Jul 1;430(6995):75-8.

Microbialite resurgence after the Late Ordovician extinction.

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Department of Geology, Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 West Wells Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233, USA.


Microbialites, including biogenic stromatolites, thrombolites and dendrolites, were formed by various microbial mats that trapped and bound sediments or formed the locus of mineral precipitation. Microbialites were common and diverse during the Proterozoic, but declined in abundance and morphological diversity when multicellular life diversified during the Cambrian Radiation. A second decline occurred during the Ordovician Radiation of marine animals, and from then until the present microbialites have been confined largely to high-stress environments where multicellular organisms are rare. The microbialite declines in the Phanerozoic are attributed to disruption of the mats by animals. A resurgence of stromatolite abundance and size during reduced animal diversity after the Permian extinction has been documented anecdotally. Here we show, with statistical support, that a microbialite resurgence also occurred after the Late Ordovician extinction event in western North America. The resurgences were associated with loss of mat-inhibiting animals, providing insights into shallow-water community structures after extinction events.

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