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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Earth’s magnetic field was in a highly unusual state when macroscopic animals of the Ediacara Fauna diversified and thrived. Any connection between these events is tantalizing but unclear. Here, we present single crystal paleointensity data from 2054 and 591 Ma pyroxenites and gabbros that define a dramatic intensity decline, from a strong Proterozoic field like that of today, to an Ediacaran value 30 times weaker. The latter is the weakest time-averaged value known to date and together with other robust paleointensity estimates indicate that Ediacaran ultra-low field strengths lasted for at least 26 million years. This interval of ultra-weak magnetic fields overlaps temporally with atmospheric and oceanic oxygenation inferred from numerous geochemical proxies. This concurrence raises the question of whether enhanced H ion loss in a reduced magnetic field contributed to the oxygenation, ultimately allowing diversification of macroscopic and mobile animals of the Ediacara Fauna.

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  4. ABSTRACT Microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS) are abundant in Ediacaran and lower Cambrian successions. However, the relationship between MISS distribution and facies has not been thoroughly explored in Ediacaran–Cambrian successions in South America. This study documents the occurrence of MISS and other potential biogenic structures from the late Ediacaran Serra de Santa Helena Formation in the Bambuí Group of eastern Brazil. This unit overlies the Cloudina-bearing Sete Lagoas Formation and is a mixed carbonate-siliciclastic succession devoid of macroscopic body fossils. Potential microbial structures include wrinkled structures such as “elephant-skin” and Kinneyia-like textures, as well as pustular structures and abundant positive epirelief discoidal structures. Another putative biogenic structure is a mm-wide meandering groove resembling a simple locomotion trail of a small vagile benthic metazoan. Microbial surface textures (i.e., “elephant skin” and Kinneyia-type wrinkles) were mainly observed in heterolithic deposits, usually at the interface between sandstone and siltstone/shale. On the other hand, discs show a facies-independent distribution, observed in heterolithic as well as carbonate and marl deposits. Petrographic analyses of these discs suggest that they have complex origins and some of them may be diagenetic structures. Thus, while facies may have strongly controlled the preservation of MISS-related structures and textures in the Serra de Santa Helena Formation, their abundance and diversity in tidal flat deposits indicate the wide distribution of matgrounds in these shallow marine paleoenvironments. Also, we demonstrate how detailed description and classification of simple features, such as discoidal structures, is an important task for paleoenvironmental reconstruction of marine ecosystems at the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition when the microbially bounded substrates played important roles in the dynamics of coastal environments. 
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  5. Increased nitrate availability may have enabled ecological dominance of marine eukaryotes 800 million years ago. 
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  6. Abstract

    Proterozoic eukaryotic macroalgae are difficult to interpret because morphological details required for proper phylogenetic studies are rarely preserved. This is especially true of morphologically simple organisms consisting of tubes, ribbons, or spheres that are commonly found in a wide array of bacteria, plants, and even animals. Previous reports of exceptionally preserved Tonian (ca. 950−900 Ma) fossils from the Dolores Creek Formation of Northwestern Canada feature enough morphological evidence to support a green macroalgal affinity. However, the affinities of two additional forms identified on the basis of the size distribution of available specimens remain undetermined, while the presence of three unique algal forms supports other reports of increasing algal diversity in the early Neoproterozoic.Archaeochaeta gunchonew genus new species is described as a green macroalga on the basis of its well-preserved morphology consisting of an unbranching, uniseriate thallus with uniform width throughout and possessing an elliptical to globose anchoring holdfast. A larger size class of ribbon-like forms is interpreted asVendotaeniasp. A third size class is significantly smaller thanArchaeochaetan. gen. andVendotaenia,but in the absence of clear morphological characters, it remains difficult to assign. AsArchaeochaetan. gen. andVendotaeniarepresent photoautotrophic taxa, these findings support the hypothesis of increasing morphological complexity and phyletic diversification of macroalgae during the Tonian, leading to dramatic changes within benthic marine ecosystems before the evolution of animals.

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  7. Abstract

    Macrofossils with unambiguous biogenic origin and predating the one-billion-year-old multicellular fossilsBangiomorphaandProterocladusinterpreted as crown-group eukaryotes are quite rare.Horodyskiais one of these few macrofossils, and it extends from the early Mesoproterozoic Era to the terminal Ediacaran Period. The biological interpretation of this enigmatic fossil, however, has been a matter of controversy since its discovery in 1982, largely because there was no evidence for the preservation of organic walls. Here we report new carbonaceous compressions ofHorodyskiafrom the Tonian successions (~950–720 Ma) in North China. The macrofossils herein with bona fide organic walls reinforce the biogenicity ofHorodyskia. Aided by the new material, we reconstructHorodyskiaas a colonial organism composed of a chain of organic-walled vesicles that likely represent multinucleated (coenocytic) cells of early eukaryotes. Two species ofHorodyskiaare differentiated on the basis of vesicle sizes, and their co-existence in the Tonian assemblage provides a link between the Mesoproterozoic (H.moniliformis) and the Ediacaran (H.minor) species. Our study thus provides evidence that eukaryotes have acquired macroscopic size through the combination of coenocytism and colonial multicellularity at least ~1.48 Ga, and highlights an exceptionally long range and morphological stasis of this Proterozoic macrofossils.

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  8. Abstract

    The Ediacaran Period (~635–539 Ma) is marked by the emergence and diversification of complex metazoans linked to ocean redox changes, but the processes and mechanism of the redox evolution in the Ediacaran ocean are intensely debated. Here we use mercury isotope compositions from multiple black shale sections of the Doushantuo Formation in South China to reconstruct Ediacaran oceanic redox conditions. Mercury isotopes show compelling evidence for recurrent and spatially dynamic photic zone euxinia (PZE) on the continental margin of South China during time intervals coincident with previously identified ocean oxygenation events. We suggest that PZE was driven by increased availability of sulfate and nutrients from a transiently oxygenated ocean, but PZE may have also initiated negative feedbacks that inhibited oxygen production by promoting anoxygenic photosynthesis and limiting the habitable space for eukaryotes, hence abating the long-term rise of oxygen and restricting the Ediacaran expansion of macroscopic oxygen-demanding animals.

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  9. Abstract The rise of eukaryotic macroalgae in the late Mesoproterozoic to early Neoproterozoic was a critical development in Earth’s history that triggered dramatic changes in biogeochemical cycles and benthic habitats, ultimately resulting in ecosystems habitable to animals. However, evidence of the diversification and expansion of macroalgae is limited by a biased fossil record. Non-mineralizing organisms are rarely preserved, occurring only in exceptional environments that favor fossilization. Investigating the taphonomy of well-preserved macroalgae will aid in identifying these target environments, allowing ecological trends to be disentangled from taphonomic overprints. Here we describe the taphonomy of macroalgal fossils from the Tonian Dolores Creek Formation (ca. 950 Ma) of northwestern Canada (Yukon Territory) that preserves cm-scale macroalgae. Analytical microscopy, including scanning electron microscopy and tomographic x-ray microscopy, was used to investigate fossil preservation, which was the result of a combination of pyritization and aluminosilicification, similar to accessory mineralization observed in Paleozoic Burgess Shale-type fossils. These new Neoproterozoic fossils help to bridge a gap in the fossil record of early algae, offer a link between the fossil and molecular record, and provide new insights into evolution during the Tonian Period, when many eukaryotic lineages are predicted to have diversified. 
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