Of time and taphonomy: preservation in the Ediacaran
Kenchington, Charlotte G.; Wilby, P. R.; The Paleontological Society
The Paleontological Society
The late Neoproterozoic witnessed a revolution in the history of life: the transition from a microbial world to the one known today. The enigmatic organisms of the Ediacaran hold the key to understanding the early evolution of metazoans and their ecology, and thus the basis of Phanerozoic life. Crucial to interpreting the information they divulge is a thorough understanding of their taphonomy: what is preserved, how it is preserved, and also what is not preserved. Fortunately, this Period is also recognized for its abundance of soft-tissue preservation, which is viewed through a wide variety of taphonomic windows. Some of these, such as pyritization and carbonaceous compression, are also present throughout the Phanerozoic, but the abundance and variety of moldic preservation of body fossils in siliciclastic settings is unique to the Ediacaran. In rare cases, one organism is preserved in several preservational styles which, in conjunction with an increased understanding of the taphonomic processes involved in each style, allow confident interpretations of aspects of the biology and ecology of the organisms preserved. Several groundbreaking advances in this field have been made since the 1990s, and have paved the way for increasingly thorough analyses and elegant interpretations.