An unusually diverse mollusc fauna from the earliest Triassic of South China and its implications for benthic recovery after the end-Permian biotic crisis
A single carbonate coquinoid lens from the Griesbachian (Early Triassic) of Shanggan, South China, yielded 11 bivalve species described in this study in addition to four gastropod and one ammonoid species reported elsewhere. This makes the Shanggan fauna one of the richest mollusc faunas from the early post-extinction interval after the end-Permian mass extinction event. Four of the present genera are long-term survivors, five are holdovers that went extinct at the end of the Griesbachian or later in the Early Triassic, and seven first appear in the Griesbachian. Three new bivalve species are described: Myalinella newelli nov. sp., Scythentolium scutigerulus nov. sp., and Eumorphotis shajingengi nov. sp. The genus Astartella, previously assumed to have vanished at the end of the Permian, is reported for the first time from the Early Triassic, which also removes Astartidae from Early Triassic Lazarus taxa. The small growth size of the Astartella specimens supports an earlier hypothesis that many of the Early Triassic Lazarus taxa did not survive in unknown refuges but were simply overlooked due to the scarcity of easily observable large-sized specimens. Ecologically, a comparatively high proportion of infaunal bivalve species (4/11) is remarkable for the early post-extinction interval, supporting the impression of a relatively advanced recovery state. Moreover, abundance-data of the bivalve-gastropod community reveal a remarkably low dominance index (D = 0.17) that is suggestive for advanced recovery and stable environmental conditions. It is proposed that the Shanggan fauna represents a late Griesbachian benthic recovery event that coincided with the appearance of similarly diverse benthic faunas in Oman and Primorye. A high proportion of genera that have previously not been reported from the Early Triassic indicate that the prevalence of poor preservation conditions is a major obstacle in identifying early phases of recovery from the greatest crisis in the history of metazoan life. The early recovery of benthic faunas reported in this study questions previous claims of a prolonged lag phase as a consequence of the extraordinary extinction magnitude or the persistence of adverse environmental conditions.