Well-preserved earliest Ordovician (early to middle Tremadocian) radiolarian faunas were recovered from carbonate rocks of the Cow Head Group of the Great Northern Peninsula of the island of Newfoundland, Canada. The earliest Ordovician faunal assemblages are from Green Point, Martin Point, Broom Point North and South, and St. Paul's Inlet in Gros Morne National Park. Latest Cambrian faunas were also recovered from Green Point and St. Paul's Inlet, but are extremely low in both abundance and diversity. The radiolarian faunas include five families, 10 genera, and 24 species. Of these, one family Aspiculumidae, one genus, and 19 species are new. The new family and new genus are Aspiculumidae and Aspiculum, respectively. The new species are Pararcheoentactinia? cowheadensis, Aspiculum eccentricum, Aspiculum? angulatum, Parechidnina delicata, P. variospina, Curvechidnina multiramosa, Echidnina conexa, E. laxa, E. semiconexa, E. severedeformis, Echidnina? immanis, Palaeospiculum curvum, P. multifurcatum, P. neofurcatum, P. tetractium, Protoentactinia deformis, P. kozuriana, P. primigena, and P. transformis. The Aspiculumidae is established on the basis of the new genus Aspiculum and on Parechidnina, whose family-level assignments were previously indeterminate. The new family Aspiculumidae is distinguished from the other four families by the absence of the spicule system.
All genera of the earliest Ordovician radiolarian faunas can be placed in the families Aspiculumidae, Archeoentactiniidae, Echidninidae, Palaeospiculumidae, and Protoentactiniidae, as can the genera of the Cambrian radiolarian faunas. However, echidninids from Cambrian faunas are generally characterized by interlocked or fused spicules whose original structure is recognizable, while those from the earliest Ordovician are commonly characterized by fused and/or modified spicules. Also, the very rare protoentactinids of the Late Cambrian are extremely abundant and diverse in the earliest Ordovician faunas described herein. Specimens of the families Palaeospiculumidae and Archaeoentactinidae are less diverse and/or less plentiful in the earliest Ordovician compared to those in Cambrian. The genus Parechidnina, which now belongs to Aspiculumidae, is more plentiful and very diverse in the earliest Ordovician, and, at the same time, lineages of the new genus Aspiculum and a related not-yet-named genus began to evolve.
The detailed biostratigraphic ages of the earliest Ordovician radiolarian faunas were determined mainly by the co-occurring conodonts. The age range of the earliest Ordovician faunas represented extends from the Cordylodus lindstromi Zone through the C. angulatus Zone to the Rossodus manitouensis Zone.