The Bajocian (Middle Jurassic): a key interval in the early Mesozoic phytoplankton radiation05 Jun 2018
Dinoflagellates and coccolithophores are two of the most important groups of phytoplankton in the modern oceans. These groups originated in the Triassic and radiated through the early Mesozoic, rising to ecological prominence. Within this long-term radiation, important shortterm intervals of evolutionary and ecological change can be recognised. The Bajocian (Middle Jurassic, ~170–168 Ma) was characterised by an important ecological transition within the coccolithophores, and the radiation of one of the principal families of cyst-forming dinoflagellates, the Gonyaulacaceae. During the Early Bajocian, the coccolith genus Watznaueria diversified and expanded ecologically to dominate coccolith floras, a situation which continued for the remainder of the Mesozoic. This pattern was paralleled within dinoflagellate cyst floras by the ecological dominance of the genus Dissiliodinium in the midpalaeolatitudes. These phenomena appear to be linked to a positive carbon isotope shift, and an interval of enhanced productivity driven by a shift to a more humid climate, enhanced continental weathering and nutrient flux, or by changes in ocean circulation and upwelling. The latest Early Bajocian to earliest Bathonian was then characterised by the rapid increase in diversity of dinoflagellate cysts within the family Gonyaulacaceae. Through this interval, the Gonyaulacaceae transitioned from being a relatively minor component of dinoflagellate cyst floras, to becoming one of the prominent groups of cyst-forming dinoflagellates, which has persisted to the Holocene. In Europe, the pattern of this radiation was strongly influenced by sea level, with the increase in gonyaulacacean diversity reflecting a major second-order transgression. On a finer scale, the main pulses of first appearances correlate with third-order transgressive episodes. A rise in sea level, coupled with changes in the tectonic configuration of ocean gateways, appears to have controlled the pattern of plankton diversification in Europe. These palaeoceanographic changes may have enhanced water-mass transfer between Europe, the northwest Tethys Ocean and the Hispanic Corridor, which promoted the floral interchange of dinoflagellates. Whilst sea level rise and associated large-scale palaeoenvironmental shifts appear to have controlled the pattern of dinoflagellate cyst appearances in several regions outside Europe, there is no direct correlation between dinoflagellate cyst diversity and sea level rise on a global scale. Although the Bajocian was transgressive in several regions, widespread flooded continental area was also present throughout the preceding Aalenian, an interval of low gonyaulacacean diversity. Moreover, although the Middle Jurassic was an interval of major climatic cooling, there was a ~5 myr gap between the onset of cooling and the radiation of gonyaulacaceans during the Bajocian. The Bajocian was, however, marked by a major evolutionary radiation in the pelagic realm, including ammonites, giant suspension feeding fishes and planktonic foraminifera. These phenomena may indicate an underlying ecological driver to the radiation of dinoflagellates during the Bajocian evolutionary explosion which could represent an extension of the Mesozoic Marine Revolution.