Although rare, sedimentary deposits containing exceptionally preserved fossils (i.e., Lagerstätten) have shaped our view on the history of life at particular intervals, such as those recording the Cambrian radiation of animals. Therefore, understanding the processes that lead to the fossilization of unmineralized tissues is crucial to better interpret these fossil assemblages. A key issue on the fossilization of exceptionally preserved fossils is linked to the role of clay minerals in the high-fidelity preservation of recalcitrant and soft tissues. Here, we show for the first time, an association of unusual fibrous clays with carbonaceous fossils (Vendotaenia) in the late Ediacaran Tamengo Formation (Mato Grosso do Sul State, western Brazil). The vendotaeniaceans occur in laminated mudstones/siltstones interpreted as being deposited in outer to distal mid-ramp depositionary settings. The fossils are characterized by ribbon-shaped compressions 0.56 mm in mean width. The fibrous clays are obliquely oriented with respect to the bedding plane, and follow the orientation of tectonically deformed structures. Our mineralogical, geochemical, and petrographic data demonstrate that these clays are mainly composed of chlorite-smectite mixed layered minerals, with >50% chlorite. Altogether, our results suggest that these fibrous minerals formed in the late-diagenetic zone to lower anchizone, reinforcing the previous idea that clay minerals associated with fossils are not necessarily related to the preservation of soft tissues. Instead, the initial preservative pathway in our fossils was probably restricted to organic matter conservation in reducing fine-grained sediments, similar to other deposits with carbonaceous fossils. This newly established mechanism, which involves the formation of clays on organic templates in the late-diagenetic zone, is likely a more widespread phenomenon than previously thought.

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