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During the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic Timor lay in the northern part of the north–south East Gondwana rift system along which the western margin of Australia later developed. Discovery of a latest Gzhelian bioherm in the central highlands of Timor Leste has implications for latest Carboniferous–earliest Permian climate history and deglaciation in basins further south in the rift system.

Limestone outcrop of the Maubisse Formation near the village of Kulau is recognized as a bioherm with a massive lower unit, including reef framework at the base, and a bedded grainstone upper unit. The bioherm developed on a basalt substrate in warm shallow-water, as indicated by photozoan assemblages in the massive lower unit. Foraminifera belonging to 17 genera are recorded from the bioherm. These include representatives of the families Biseriamminidae, Biwaellidae, Bradyinidae, Cornuspiridae, Lasiodiscidae, Palaeotextulariidae, Pseudotaxidae, Ozawainellidae, Schubertellidae, Schwagerinidae, Staffellidae and Textrataxidae. Twenty-one species have been referred to known types and 12 species are left in open nomenclature. The assemblage probably belongs within the uppermost Gzhelian Schwagerina robustaUltradaixina bosbytauensis Zone although a possible lowest Asselian correlation cannot be excluded. The bioherm is the oldest carbonate unit so far recorded from the Maubisse Formation, and the oldest sedimentary unit biostratigraphically dated in Timor.

The dominantly heterozoan composition of the skeletal component of the limestone (except for the basal photozoan assemblage) and the taxonomic diversity of the larger foraminifera suggest a subtropical environment consistent with a paleolatitude of about 40° S. The late Pennsylvanian was a time of glaciation that in Australia is represented by a significant stratigraphic hiatus in basins to the south of Timor in the East Gondwana rift system. The development of the Kulau bioherm during the latest Gzhelian may have coincided with a global warming spike that led to rapid melting of continental ice sheets and a substantial influx of glacigene sediment (alternating diamictite and mudstone) in the southern basins.

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NOTICE: this is the author's version of a work that was accepted for publication in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, (2013). DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.01.022