Bioturbation long has been ‘blamed’ for eliminating late Proterozoic-style sedimentary structures and fabrics. While the presence of diverse and complex burrows in lowermost Cambrian strata is indisputable, analysis of Precambrian–Cambrian successions in southeast Newfoundland demonstrate that this burrowing style did not produce typical Phanerozoic-style ichnofabrics.
Three hundred meters of the siltstone/sandstone facies of member 2 of the Chapel Island Formation were examined in the area of the Precambrian–Cambrian boundary stratotype. Gyrolithes, Planolites, and Skolithos occur as sand infills ubiquitously throughout siltstone beds, most commonly without direct contact with an overlying sandstone bed, as if “floating” in the siltstone. In contrast, Treptichnus pedum occurs as sand infills adhering onto the base of thin sandstone beds that have different grain size and texture than the burrow infills. Both of these burrow types represent a style of preservation in which the burrows are unattached to an overlying bed of the casting sediment. These styles of preservation occur frequently in the Treptichnus pedum Zone and continue into the Rusophycus avalonensis Zone in spite of an increase in trace fossil diversity. The sandstone beds are bioturbated only very rarely. The resultant fabric produced by floating and, in particular, adhering burrows in these shallow marine deposits appears to be characteristic of many Lower Cambrian rocks. Silt layers appear to have been firm enough to have supported open burrows, likely as a result of a negligible mixed layer. This line of reasoning would predict that preservation of this type would be uncommon in younger strata deposited in open marine settings.