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Experimental formation of a microbial death mask

Simon A. F. Darroch, Marc Laflamme, James D. Schiffbauer and Derek E. G. Briggs
Experimental formation of a microbial death mask (in Lagerstaetten through time; a collection of exceptional preservational pathways from the terminal Neoproterozoic through today, James D. Schiffbauer (editor) and Marc Laflamme (editor))
Palaios (May 2012) 27 (5): 293-303


This study represents a first attempt to observe soft-tissue decay in association with microbial mats, in order to recreate the death-mask model proposed for terminal Neoproterozoic Lagerstatten. This model explains the precipitation of authigenic iron sulfide minerals on, and around, decaying carcasses in association with microbial mats, cementing the sediment as a sole veneer and retaining the external morphology of the organism in relief on the upper and lower surface of coarse-grained sandy event beds. Although this model has been substantiated by the discovery of abundant microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS) and pyrite veneers in close association with Ediacaran fossils, it has not been tested previously by experimental taphonomic studies under controlled laboratory conditions. Arthropod larvae that decayed on top of a cyanobacterial mat demonstrated higher quality preservation of fine-scale anatomy than larvae that decayed in the absence of a mat. Decay experiments involving bacterial mats and organic-rich sands generated a black ring extending radially from the decaying carcasses. When this precipitate was analyzed using XPS and ESEM-EDS it revealed the presence of likely iron sulfides, or at least spatially associated Fe and S, and localized concentrations of common aluminosilicate elements (Al, K, Fe, and Mg), which is a composition that has been documented in association with Ediacaran fossil preservation.

ISSN: 0883-1351
Serial Title: Palaios
Serial Volume: 27
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Experimental formation of a microbial death mask
Title: Lagerstaetten through time; a collection of exceptional preservational pathways from the terminal Neoproterozoic through today
Author(s): Darroch, Simon A. F.Laflamme, MarcSchiffbauer, James D.Briggs, Derek E. G.
Author(s): Schiffbauer, James D.editor
Author(s): Laflamme, Marceditor
Affiliation: Yale University, Department of Geology and Geophysics, New Haven, CT, United States
Affiliation: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univesity, Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory, Blacksburg, VA, United States
Pages: 293-303
Published: 201205
Text Language: English
Publisher: Society for Sedimentary Geology, Tulsa, OK, United States
Meeting name: Geological Society of America annual meeting
Meeting location: Denver, CO, USA, United States
Meeting date: 20101031Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2010
References: 69
Accession Number: 2012-065522
Categories: Invertebrate paleontology
Document Type: Serial Conference document
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 tables
Secondary Affiliation: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, USA, United StatesVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), Tulsa, OK, United States
Update Code: 201234
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