Article: Palaeoecological and phylogenetic implications of a new scleractiniamorph genus from Permian sponge reefs, South China
Scleractinian corals are the most important constituents of modern coralgal reefs. For many years, it was thought that they first appeared in the Middle Triassic and subsequently underwent explosive radiation. However, abundant scleractinian-like corals with ancestral morphological traits have recently been recovered from Middle Permian sponge reefs in China, which not only confirms a role in Permian reef ecology but also suggests a possible Palaeozoic origin for the group. Two species of a new Permian scleractiniamorph genus from China are described herein as Houchangocyathus wangi gen. et sp. nov. and Houchangocyathus yaoi gen. et sp. nov.Putative Palaeozoic Scleractinia may have evolved over a substantial time interval and diverged into stem lineages by the end of the Permian. These forms evolved within both the rigid framework of their basic body plan and the morphological constraints characteristic of each lineage. The Middle Permian development of calcisponge reefs was closely related to habitat expansion, which would have provided an ideal dwelling for scleractinian-like corals and enhanced their chances of fossilization. Such scleractiniamorphs disappeared at the end-Permian extinction, but may have survived as progenitors of Triassic Scleractinia.