Date of this Version
The calcareous nanofossil genus Eiffellithus is an important taxon of mid- to Upper Cretaceous marine sediments in biostratigraphy and paleoceanography. The definition of species within Eiffellithus have been both broadly interpreted and variably applied by nanofossil workers. This is particularly true for the Eiffellithus eximius plexus. While the taxonomy of mid-Cretaceous Eiffellithus species has recently been well-defined, the remaining 35 m.y. history of the genus has not been closely examined. Our investigation of Cenomanian to Maastrichtian sediments from the Western Interior Seaway, Gulf of Mexico, and Western Atlantic gives rise to six new species of Eiffellithus that can be reliably differentiated. In this paper the hitherto used biostratigraphic markers (E. turriseiffelii and E. eximius) have been redefined in a more restricted sense to increase their utility. These refinements in taxonomy reveal an obvious shift in abundance both within the genus and within the nanofossil assemblage as a whole through the Late Cretaceous. In the Cenomanian and Maastrichtian the genus is composed exclusively of coccoliths bearing an X-shaped central cross, such as E. turriseiffelii, while in the Coniacian through Campanian axial-cross forms such as E. eximius comprise more than 60% of the genus. Within the nanofossil assemblage the genus has low abundances in the Cenomanian but increases to >15% of the assemblage in well-preserved samples in the Santonian. In addition, the pattern of diversification of this genus, whereby an X-shaped, diagonal cross repeatedly gives rise to an axial cross by rotation about the central axis, is an excellent example of iterative evolution that may be related to repetitive shifts in Late Cretaceous climatic and paleoceanographic regimes.