‘Intrites’ from the Ediacaran Longmyndian Supergroup, UK: a new form of microbially-induced sedimentary structure (MISS)
Latha R. Menon, Duncan McIlroy, Martin D. Brasier, 2017. "‘Intrites’ from the Ediacaran Longmyndian Supergroup, UK: a new form of microbially-induced sedimentary structure (MISS)", 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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Simple discoidal impressions are the only evidence of complex life in some Ediacaran and older rocks, but their interpretation is notoriously difficult. We reassessed a puzzling discoidal form from the c. 560 Ma upper Burway Formation of the Ediacaran Longmyndian Supergroup, Shropshire, UK. The structures, previously described as Intrites punctatus Fedonkin, are found on both the bed tops and soles. They vary in morphology from mounds with central depressions to incomplete rings and pairs of short ridges. Examination of the purported Intrites documented from the Longmyndian in cross-section revealed a torus-shaped structure bounded by microbial mat layers and commonly containing white laminae. We interpret the ‘Longmyndian Intrites’ as a product of microbial trapping, sediment binding and authigenic clay mineral and carbonate precipitation on the flanks of small sediment volcanoes. Subsidence of the ring-like structure into muddy sediments resulted in a torus-shaped microstromatolite. Preferential stromatolitic growth parallel to the prevailing current produced the observed partial rings or parallel ridges and explains their preferential orientation as current alignment. This interpretation of ‘Longmyndian Intrites’ expands the known variety of microbially-induced sedimentary structures (MISS) and emphasizes the importance of considering microbially-induced structures and abiological processes when interpreting discoidal impressions in ancient rocks.
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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.