Abstract

When each of the Avalon-, Ediacara-, and Nama-type fossil assemblages are tracked through geological time, there appear to be changes in species composition and diversity, almost synchronized between different sedimentary environments, allowing a subdivision of the late Ediacaran into the Redkinian, Belomorian and Kotlinian geological time intervals. The Redkinian (580–559 Ma) is characterized by first appearance of both eumetazoan traces and macroscopic organisms (frondomorphs and vendobionts) in a form of Avalon-type communities in the inner shelf environment, whereas coeval Ediacara-type communities remained depauperate. The Belomorian (559–550 Ma) is marked by the advent of eumetazoan burrowing activity in the inner shelf, diversification of frondomorphs, migration of vendobionts from the inner shelf into higher energy environments, and appearance of tribrachiomorphs and bilateralomorphs. Ediacaran organisms formed distinctive ecological associations that coexisted in the low-energy inner shelf (Avalon-type communities), in the wave- and current-agitated shoreface (Ediacara-type communities), and in the high-energy distributary systems (Nama-type communities). The Kotlinian (550–540 Ma) witnessed an expansion of the burrowing activity into wave- and current-agitated shoreface, disappearance of vendobionts, tribrachiomorphs and bilateralomorphs in wave- and current-agitated shoreface, together with a drop in frondomorph diversity. High-energy distributary channel systems of prodeltas served as refugia for Nama-type communities that survived until the end of the Ediacaran and disappeared when the burrowing activity reached high-energy environments. This pattern is interpreted as an expression of ecosystem engineering by eumetazoans, with the Ediacaran organisms being progressively outcompeted by bilaterians.

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