The fossil record spanning the latest Ediacaran and earliest Cambrian is characterized by the proliferation of small, mineralized organisms that comprise the well-known and abundant deposits of small shelly fauna. Many of these fossils are tubular or conical forms with simple morphologies, and thus present difficulties in both taxonomic and phylogenetic interpretation. This study investigates a community of poorly preserved shelly tubicolous organisms in two fossiliferous slabs from the Soltanieh Formation, northern Iran. Analysis of the taphonomy of this fossil assemblage using thin-section petrography, scanning electron microscopy, and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, suggests a two-part preservational pathway involving phosphatic replacement of the shell wall and separate, diagenetically later infillings of void space with either phosphatic or calcium carbonate cements. In parallel with the taphonomic study and given the difficulty in assigning the observed fossils taxonomically, morphometrics of the shelly organisms were also explored. Biometric measurements were collected from high-resolution photomosaic images of the slab-surface fossils, as well as from a three-dimensional volume of the interior of one of the slabs generated via X-ray tomographic microscopy. Statistical analysis of these measurements revealed a separation of the fossils into two morphologically distinct groups of conical and tubular forms, which we characterize respectively as ‘conomorphs' and ‘tubomorphs'. Based on previous studies of fossils from the Soltanieh Fm., we can offer tentative generic-level assignment to Anabarites and Cambrotubulus to at least some of the fossils present, though these are dependent on views in thin section rather than morphometric distinction. Cumulatively, we provide a conservative, taxonomy-free approach for detailing the morphology and preservation of poorly preserved fossils from the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition.

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