Microbially mediated early diagenetic pyrite formation in the immediate vicinity of organic material has been the favored mechanism by which to explain widespread preservation of soft-bodied organisms in late Ediacaran sedimentary successions, but an alternative rapid silicification model has been proposed for macrofossil preservation in sandstones of the Ediacara Member in South Australia. We here provide petrological evidence from Nilpena National Heritage Site and Ediacara Conservation Park to demonstrate the presence of grain-coating iron oxides, framboidal hematite, and clay minerals along Ediacara Member sandstone bedding planes, including fossil-bearing bed soles. Scanning electron microscope (SEM), cathodoluminescence microscopy (CL), and petrographic data reveal that framboids and grain coatings, which we interpret as oxidized pyrite, formed before the precipitation of silica cements. In conjunction with geochemical and taphonomic considerations, our data suggest that anactualistically high concentrations of silica need not be invoked to explain Ediacara Member fossil preservation: We conclude that the pyritic death mask model remains compelling.

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