Coral - Evolutionary History

Evolutionary History

Left frame
Right frame
Parallel view
Cross-eye view
Horn coral fossil.

Although corals first appeared in the Cambrian period, some 542 million years ago, fossils are extremely rare until the Ordovician period, 100 million years later, when rugose and tabulate corals became widespread.

Tabulate corals occur in limestones and calcareous shales of the Ordovician and Silurian periods, and often form low cushions or branching masses alongside rugose corals. Their numbers began to decline during the middle of the Silurian period, and they became extinct at the end of the Permian period, 250 million years ago. The skeletons of tabulate corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite.

Rugose corals became dominant by the middle of the Silurian period, and became extinct early in the Triassic period. The rugose corals existed in solitary and colonial forms, and were also composed of calcite.

The scleractinian corals filled the niche vacated by the extinct rugose and tabulate species. Their fossils may be found in small numbers in rocks from the Triassic period, and became common in the Jurassic and later periods. Scleractinian skeletons are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as aragonite. Although they are geologically younger than the tabulate and rugose corals, their aragonitic skeleton is less readily preserved, and their fossil record is less complete.

Timeline of the major coral fossil record and developments from 650 m.y.a. to present.

edit

At certain times in the geological past, corals were very abundant. Like modern corals, these ancestors built reefs, some of which ended as great structures in sedimentary rocks.

Fossils of fellow reef-dwellers algae, sponges, and the remains of many echinoids, brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods, and trilobites appear along with coral fossils. This makes some corals useful index fossils that enabled geologists to date the rocks in which they are found. Coral fossils are not restricted to reef remnants, and many solitary fossils may be found elsewhere, such as Cyclocyathus, which occurs in England's Gault clay formation.

A Petoskey stone is a rock and a fossil, often pebble-shaped, that is composed of a fossilized coral, Hexagonaria percarinata. They are found predominantly in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and the northwestern portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Read more about this topic:  Coral

Famous quotes containing the words evolutionary and/or history:

    The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
    Stanley Weiser, U.S. screenwriter, and Oliver Stone. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas)

    It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.
    Henry James (1843–1916)