In the course of studying modern halotolerant microbial mats in salterns near the village of Kervalet, western France, we observed fanning-out and curved series of macroscopic ridges on the surface of a newly formed biofilm. The structure resembles the late Ediacaran fossil Arumberia which is globally distributed in Australia, Avalonia, Baltica, Siberia and India, always confined to intertidal and delta-plain settings subject to periodic desiccation or fluctuating salinity. Although the origin of the structure observed in modern microbial mats remains enigmatic, wrinkled and rugose variants of microbial biofilms in general exhibit increased levels of resistance to several environmental stresses. By analogy, the fossil Arumberia could be interpreted as a microbial mat morphotype (the “Arumberia” morph) developed in response to environmental perturbations in terminal Ediacaran shallow marine basins. If environmental conditions are likely to be responsible for the formation of Arumberia, it is not that a specific biological community has survived since the Ediacaran – it is that the biological response of microbial communities that manifested itself quite commonly in certain terminal Ediacaran and early Cambrian environments can still be found (seemingly in much more restricted settings) today.

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