Abstract

Many marine benthic metazoans must stabilize themselves upon the seafloor for survival, and as a result their morphologies are controlled in part by local substrate conditions. The Agronomic Revolution (AR), spurred by increasing vertical bioturbation during the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition, permanently altered the nature of shallow marine substrate conditions and led to a major shift in adaptive strategies among benthic metazoans. These ecological and evolutionary changes, known as the Cambrian Substrate Revolution (CSR), are generally understood from observations of benthic metazoan fossils across the Ediacaran/Cambrian boundary, but the timing and geographic extent of this transition are less well known. This analysis attempts to constrain the temporal and spatial pattern of the AR and CSR by performing a global-scale paleoecological analysis of the adaptive strategies of benthic fauna living during the Cambrian. This analysis focused on Burgess Shale-type (BST) faunas because of their exceptional preservation, and was conducted through direct observation of fossil specimens, analysis of data compiled from the Paleobiology Database, and literature review. From these analyses, faunal groups are assigned a metric, the Substrate Adaptability Index (SAI), that relates the overall affinity the fauna demonstrates toward either Proterozoic-style (SAI=0) or Phanerozoic-style (SAI=1) substrate conditions. The results of this analysis demonstrate that most early and middle Cambrian faunas were mixtures of Phanerozoic- and Proterozoic-style adaptive strategists, suggesting that Proterozoic-style substrates were still influential in controlling adaptive strategies in marine environments until at least that time. This is further supported by ichnofabric analysis of many of these localities, where overall bioturbation levels are exceedingly low, indicating a lack of mixed-layer development and the prevalence of firm Proterozoic-style substrates well into the Cambrian.

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