Abstract

The tubular fossil Cloudina is emerging as an important Ediacaran index fossil. However, its morphology, skeletogenesis, reproduction, and phylogenetic affinity have not been fully resolved. New material from the Dengying Formation of south China confirms that Cloudina tubes consist of eccentrically and sometimes deeply nested funnels and that the tubes lack transverse cross-walls, inconsistent with the traditional cone-in-cone morphological reconstruction. Tube walls are composed of micrometer-sized, more or less equant crystals. A number of Cloudina tubes branch dichotomously, in which daughter funnels split within parent ones. The Cloudina animal is interpreted to have been able to initiate biomineralization of new funnels within old ones. Its skeleton was probably secreted as calcite crystals suspended in organic matrix; the crystals do not appear to have nucleated and grown on a sheeted substrate. It was clearly capable of asexual reproduction, through budding within parent funnels rather than at the apertural end. The morphology, skeletogenesis, and asexual reproduction of Cloudina are broadly similar to modern serpulid annelids, indicating possible phylogenetic relationships or morphological convergence.

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