Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 June 2016
This study reports the earliest known reef-building anthaspidellid sponge, Rankenella zhangxianensis n. sp., from the Cambrian Series 3 (late Stage 5–early Guzhangian) deposit of the Zhangxia Formation, Shandong Province, China. Rankenella zhangxianensis mostly occurs within Epiphyton-Rankenella-Cambroctoconus reefs, with minor occurrence from inter-reef grainstone. The species has anthaspidellid-type regular ladderlike spicule networks consisting of dendroclones and trabs, and is characterized by trabs parallel/subparallel to the gastral surface that diverge and meet the dermal surface, which is typical of the genus. Compared to R. mors and R. hamdii, reported from the late Cambrian Series 2–late Cambrian Series 3 of Australia and the late Cambrian Series 3–early Furongian of Iran, respectively, R. zhangxianensis is characterized by a relatively thicker wall, high angle (~90°) between dermal surfaces and intersecting trabs, and minor occurrence of differentiated canals. On the other hand, R. zhangxianensis mainly shows obconical shape, which is far less diverse than the other two species showing conicocylindrical, digitate, explanate, or bowl shapes. These Cambrian Series 3 reefs from China are the ancestors of the Furongian anthaspidellid-microbial reefs and the Early Ordovician anthaspidellid-microbial reefs that flourished worldwide. They represent the resurgence of reef-building metazoans after the extinction of archaeocyaths at the end of Cambrian Series 2.