Abstract

All interpretable trace fossils from the Ediacarian–Cambrian transition strata of northern Siberia, Ukraine, and elsewhere represent shelters of infaunal animals feeding from the sediment surface. There is a gradation of forms ranging from (1) makers of horizontal galleries in soft sand with bilobed lower surface and proboscis extended to the surface, through (2) linear or zigzag series of short, widely U-shaped burrows in firm clay with bilobed or three-lobed lower surface, to (3) series of cylindrical chambers dug completely inside the sediment but opening to its surface. At the same time, protective skeleton originated in animals living above the sediment surface. Apparently, the diversification of predators in the earliest Cambrian forced other animals to invest energy either in digging or in a protective armor (“the Verdun Syndrome”). True mud-eaters appeared later, as documented by the late Tommotian horizontal spreite structures from central Siberia. Most, if not all, of those infaunal traces of activity were produced probably by relatives of priapulid worms. It appears that body cavities and segmentation in the Metazoa (diverse already in the Ediacarian) evolved independently of, and prior to, hydraulic burrowing.

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