Abstract

A small quantity of helically coiled spheroidal fossils has been recovered from acid digestion of phosphorite samples from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation, South China. These fossils consist of an internal body enclosed in a sculptured envelope that is very similar to that of Doushantuo animal eggs and blastula embryos such as Megasphaera ornata. A hallmark of these fossils is a three-dimensional spiral structure, which always consists of three clockwise coils, and occurs on both the envelope and the internal body. The spiral structure consists of a spiral tunnel or canal flanked by two raised levees, and it is punctured by a series of holes. Some specimens show evidence of uncoiling, invagination along the spiral structure, or bipectinate furrowing on the band between canals. A possible ontogenetic link between these helical spheroidal fossils and Megasphaera ornata is suggested by similar size, similar envelope sculptures, and co-occurrence. We tentatively interpret these fossils as postblastula embryos related to Megasphaera ornata. Thus, they may represent the most advanced embryonic fossils so far known from the Ediacaran, although their adult morphologies and phylogenetic affinity remain unknown.

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