Benthic palaeoecology of Danian deep-shelf bryozoan mounds in the Danish Basin

Morten Bjerager, Finn Surlyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Early Danian cool-water bryozoan mounds exposed in the coastal cliff Stevns Klint in Denmark were formed shortly after the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction. They represent a relatively deep-water, highly diverse benthic ecosystem within the epeiric seaway that covered the Danish Basin. The mounds are 50-110 m long and reached a height of about 5-10 m above the seafloor; they are asymmetrical with a steep southern and a gentle northern flank, and were dominated by small suspension feeders. The benthic elements generally occur as fragments set in a carbonate mud matrix. The main skeletal contributors are delicate branching bryozoans with minor contributions of bryozoan sheets, and nodular/arborescent bryozoans. Locally abundant octocorals occur on the mound crests and upper parts of the steep flanks. Echinoids are present in minor amounts, but are locally abundant. Serpulids, crinoids, asteroids, brachiopods, bivalves, massive calcareous sponges, and benthic foraminifers are generally minor contributors to the benthic mound fauna. Influx of planktonic foraminifers, coccoliths and other planktonic organisms was high and was probably a major source of nutrient supply to the mainly suspension-feeding benthic fauna. The faunal association reflects a relatively low energy environment with a high, possibly seasonal influx of particulate nutrients. The best growth conditions with respect to nutrient influx were on the mound crest and upper steep flank reflected by the diverse and relatively largest benthic faunal elements. Periodic reworking and winnowing occurred across the entire mound structure but most prominent on the gentle northern flanks limiting the benthic growth and notably the colony density and size of delicate branching bryozoans. Vagile benthic faunas were also adapted to different areas on the mound. Irregular echinoids preferred the intermound areas within fine-grained wackestone-packstone facies where they ploughed through the sediment, whereas regular echinoids were epifaunal and preferred the upper parts of the mounds, possibly feeding mainly on bryozoans. Skeletons of both groups became concentrated at the toe of the steep flanks and in the intermound areas by physical reworking during major storms. Changes in faunal composition on the mound crests occurred rhythmically on both small and large scale during mound growth. Rhythmically recurring faunal assemblages reflect alternating hydrodynamic conditions on the seafloor with respect to nutrient influx and energy, which probably were linked to short-term seasonal and long-term climatic variations; the long-term alternation may be within the Milankovitch frequency band. Blooming events of bryozoan sheets resulted from relatively short periods with large amounts of available food and suitable substrate. Successful colonisation by octocorals on the other hand reflected longer-term favourable conditions on the mounds possibly associated with overall higher energy levels. A possible Pleistocene analogue to the bryozoan-dominated Danian mounds occurs at the shelf-slope break of the Great Australian Bight. Both of these cool-water mound systems deviate from most other biogenic mounds known from the fossil record in their non-cemented nature, regular geometry and a lack of core and flank facies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-215
Number of pages32
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Deep-water skeletal mounds
  • Palaeocene
  • Palaeoecology

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


Dive into the research topics of 'Benthic palaeoecology of Danian deep-shelf bryozoan mounds in the Danish Basin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this