Article: The Late Triassic black shales of the Guanling area, Guizhou Province, South-West China: a unique marine reptile and pelagic crinoid fossil Lagerstätte
Black shales of the lower member of the Carnian Xiaowa Formation (previously known as the Wayao Member of the Falang Formation or as the Wayao Formation) in the Guanling area, Guizhou Province, south-west China, are yielding a rich marine reptile fauna and exceptional remains of pelagic crinoids. The black shales represent deposition on the drowned southern margin of the Yangtze Platform during a Maximum Flooding Interval. The relatively reduced sedimentation rates led to the formation of the Lagerstätte through the accumulation of fossils in the anoxic bottom sediments over a prolonged period of time. Invertebrate fossils represent almost exclusively pelagic forms, such as a diverse ammonite fauna and halobiid bivalves. The spectacular finds of colonies of large (stem lengths > 11 m) crinoids of the genus Traumatocrinus attached to driftwood prove that this crinoid was the first to evolve a pseudoplanktonic life style. The other crinoid is the planktonic roveacrinid Osteocrinus. The marine reptile fauna, represented by probably hundreds of skeletons, is numerically dominated by three species of ichthyosaurs and four species of thalattosaurs. The thalattosaurs fill a palaeobiogeographic gap between the Alpine thalattosaur faunas and those from western North America. Two species of placodonts are rare finds. As for the thalattosaurs, the placodont occurrences greatly expand the geographic range of the group because placodonts have been known previously only from the Mediterranean region, the Alps and the Muschelkalk Basin. The unique abundance of thalattosaurs contrasts with a scarcity of fishes. Although we suggest that the fauna is authochthonous and inhabited surface waters, it must have represented an unusual ecosystem. However, the possibility remains that both the marine reptiles and the Traumatocrinus colonies were concentrated in the region by currents and do not reflect the biocoenosis.