Advanced analytical techniques for studying the morphology and chemistry of Proterozoic microfossils
David Wacey, Leila Battison, Russell J. Garwood, Keyron Hickman-Lewis, Martin D. Brasier, 2017. "Advanced analytical techniques for studying the morphology and chemistry of Proterozoic microfossils", Earth System Evolution and Early Life: A Celebration of the Work of Martin Brasier, A. T. Brasier, D. McIlroy, N. McLoughlin
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This paper outlines the suite of advanced multi-scalar techniques currently available in the toolkit of the modern Proterozoic palaeobiologist. These include non-intrusive and non-destructive optical, laser and X-ray techniques, plus more destructive ion beam and electron beam methods. Together, these provide morphological, mineralogical and biochemical data at flexible spatial scales from that of an individual atom to the largest Proterozoic microfossils. An overview is given of each technique and a case study from the exceptionally well-preserved Torridonian biota of NW Scotland is presented. This microfossil assemblage was first recognized over a century ago, but its great diversity and evolutionary importance has only recently come to light, due in no small part to the research efforts of Martin Brasier.
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This volume in memory of Professor Martin Brasier, which has many of his unfinished works, summarizes recent progress in some of the hottest topics in palaeobiology including cellular preservation of early microbial life and early evolution of macroscopic animal life, encompassing the Ediacara biota. The papers focus on how to decipher evidence for early life, which requires exceptional preservation, employment of state-of-the-art techniques and also an understanding gleaned from Phanerozoic lagerstätte and modern analogues. The papers also apply Martin’s MOFAOTYOF principle (my oldest fossils are older than your oldest fossils), requiring an integrated approach to understanding fossils. The adoption of the null-hypothesis that all putative traces of life are abiotic until proven otherwise, and the consideration of putative fossils within their spatial context, characterized the work of Martin Brasier, as is well demonstrated by the papers in this volume.