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  1. Abstract

    Microbial fossils and textures are commonly preserved in Ediacaran and early Cambrian coarse‐grained siliciclastic sediments that were deposited in tidal and intertidal marine settings. In contrast, the fossilization of micro‐organisms in similar marine environments of post‐Cambrian age is less frequently reported. Thus, temporal discrepancies in microbial preservation may have resulted from the opening and closing of a unique taphonomic window during the terminal Proterozoic and early Phanerozoic, respectively. Here, we expand upon previous work to identify environmental factors which may have facilitated the preservation of cyanobacteria growing on siliciclastic sand, by experimentally determining the ability of microbial mats to trap small, suspended mineral grains, and precipitate minerals from ions in solution. We show that (i) fine grains coat the sheaths of filamentous cyanobacteria (e.g.,Nodosilineasp.) residing within the mat, after less than 1 week of cell growth under aerobic conditions, (ii) clay minerals do not coat sterile cellulose fibers and rarely coat unsheathed cyanobacterial cells (e.g.,Nostocsp.), (iii) stronger disturbances (where culture jars were agitated at 170 rpm; 3 mm orbital diameter) produce the smoothest and most extensive mineral veneers around cells, compared with those agitated at slower rotational speeds (150 and 0 rpm), and (iv) mineral veneers coating cyanobacterial cells are ~1 μm in width. These new findings suggest that sheathed filamentous cyanobacteria may be preferentially preserved under conditions of high fluid energy. We integrate these results into a mechanistic model that explains the preservation of microbial fossils and textures in Ediacaran sandstones and siltstones, and in fine‐grained siliciclastic deposits that contain exceptionally preserved microbial mats.

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  2. Abstract

    Cryogenian cap carbonates that overlie Sturtian glacial deposits were formed during a post‐glacial transgression. Here, we describe microfossils from the Kakontwe Formation of Zambia and the Taishir Formation of Mongolia—both Cryogenian age, post‐Sturtian cap carbonates—and investigate processes involved in their formation and preservation. We compare microfossils from these two localities to an assemblage of well‐documented microfossils previously described in the post‐Sturtian Rasthof Formation of Namibia. Microfossils from both new localities have 10 ± 1 μm‐thick walls composed of carbonaceous matter and aluminosilicate minerals. Those found in the Kakontwe Formation are spherical or ovoid and 90 ± 5 μm to 200 ± 5 μm wide. Structures found in the Taishir Formation are mostly spherical, 50 ± 5 μm to 140 ± 5 μm wide, with distinct features such as blunt or concave edges. Chemical and mineralogical analyses show that the walled structures and the clay fraction extracted from the surrounding sediments are composed of clay minerals, especially muscovite and illite, as well as quartz, iron and titanium oxides, and some dolomite and feldspar. At each locality, the mineralogy of the microfossil walls matched that of the clay fractions of the surrounding sediment. The abundance of these minerals in the walled microfossils relative to the surrounding carbonate matrix and microbial laminae, and the presence of minerals that cannot precipitate from solution (titanium oxide and feldspar), suggests that the composition represents the original mineralogy of the structures. Furthermore, the consistency in mineralogy of both microfossils and sediments across the three basins, and the uniformity of size and shape among mineral grains in the fossil walls indicate that these organisms incorporated these minerals by primary biological agglutination. The discovery of new, mineral‐rich microfossil assemblages in microbially laminated and other fine‐grained facies of Cryogenian cap carbonates from multiple localities on different palaeocontinents demonstrates that agglutinating eukaryotes were widespread in carbonate‐dominated marine environments in the aftermath of the Sturtian glaciation.

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