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Ediacaran-style decay experiments using mollusks and sea anemones

Brandt M. Gibson, James D. Schiffbauer and Simon A. F. Darroch
Ediacaran-style decay experiments using mollusks and sea anemones
Palaios (May 2018) 33 (5): 185-203


The latest Neoproterozoic Ediacara biota are a collection of enigmatic soft-bodied eukaryotes that have been variously interpreted as both diploblasts and triploblasts, and which are thought to have been preserved as pyritic 'death masks'. We perform decay experiments on sea anemones (Condylactis gigantea) and mollusks (Dolabella auricularia) under both 'normal' (i.e., baseline) and Ediacaran-style conditions; this allows us to construct decay indices for both these organismal groups, test the influence of Ediacaran taphonomic scenarios on rates and patterns of decay, and potentially constrain the phylogenetic affinities of Ediacaran fossils. We find that in both types of organisms the most labile tissues are preferentially lost, and tissue type exerts a stronger control on preservation than overall diploblastic versus triploblastic organization. Thus, in sum, there is not a large differential of preservation between diploblastic and triploblastic organisms. Geochemical analyses of sediment from around the carcasses indicate that pyritic 'death mask'-style preservation is dependent on the availability of Fe. Perhaps most importantly, experiments under Ediacaran-style taphonomic scenarios exhibit more rapid decay of labile tissues, such as anemone tentacles and the internal gut system of mollusks, than in baseline experiments. This finding highlights potential biases against the preservation of metazoan characters in the late Neoproterozoic, which may have influenced the interpretation of many iconic Ediacaran organisms.

ISSN: 0883-1351
Serial Title: Palaios
Serial Volume: 33
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Ediacaran-style decay experiments using mollusks and sea anemones
Affiliation: Vanderbilt University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Nashville, TN, United States
Pages: 185-203
Published: 201805
Text Language: English
Publisher: Society for Sedimentary Geology, Tulsa, OK, United States
References: 77
Accession Number: 2018-055804
Categories: Invertebrate paleontology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: NSF grants EAR-1652351 and EAR-1636643
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 plates, 2 tables, sketch map
N30°15'00" - N30°15'00", W88°12'00" - W88°12'00"
Secondary Affiliation: University of Missouri at Columbia, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2018, 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: 2018
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