Abstract

Carbon and strontium isotopic data are used to show that the earliest sponge spicule clusters and associated phosphatic sediments (with Anabarites) from southwestern Mongolia are of Ediacarian age. Spicule morphologies include bundles of oxeas arranged in three-dimensional quadrules, linked together at junctions by tetracts, pentacts, hexacts, or polyactines. All are referred to the Phylum Porifera, Class Hexactinellida. These sponge spicules provide the oldest remains that can be assigned without question to an extant phylum, and also the first firm evidence for filter feeding and metazoan silica biomineralization in the fossil record. It is suggested that siliceous and phosphatic members of the “Cambrian fauna” may have had their origins in eutrophic and outer shelf facies of the Late Proterozoic.

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