Monday, January 27, 2014

Disc and Star Shaped Microbial Fossils From an Interglacial Maikhanuul/Ma Nantuo Glaciation of Ediacaran NeoProterozoic Mongolia

Fossil microbial colonies in Neoproterozoic interglacial rocks of Western Mongolia


Serezhnikova et al


Glaciogenic deposits are widely distributed in the Neoproterozoic successions around the world, but only few of them are associated with occurrences of authentic macroscopic fossils. Problematical circular remains recovered from intertillite beds of the Neoproterozoic Maikhanuul Formation, Zavkhan basin, Western Mongolia may be a new record of biogenic structures in ancient glacial rocks. The Maikhanuul tillites were deposited between 732–777 Ma (the underlying volcanic rocks of the Neoproterozoic Dzabkhan Formation) and 632 ± 14 Ma (the overlying limestones of the Ediacaran — Nemakit–Daldynian Tsagaanolom Formation). The assemblage of microfossils from the Tsagaanolom Formation is comparable to the assemblage known from the 635–551 Ma Doushantuo Formation of South China. The Maikhanuul glacial event may therefore be correlated with the 635 Ma Nantuo glaciation. Morphological, taphonomic, biometric and geochemical observations have allowed us to interpret the problematical circular remains from the Maikhanuul tillites as microbial communities preserved in situ on the floor of an ancient glacial basin. Many discoidal fossils from Precambrian strata have been compared with extant microbial colonies that have a similar external morphology. However, ultrastructure of the hypothetical Precambrian microbial communities has not hitherto been reported. Scanning electron microscopy of the circular remains from the Maikhanuul tillites revealed filamentous and star-shaped microfossils closely resembling modern bacteria. Some filaments and especially the star-shaped grains are considerably enriched in iron (up to 50%) that may be attributed to bacterial activity. Furthermore, the star-shaped microremains can be compared with modern star-shaped bacteria known from freshwater and terrestrial environments. Although the presence of microbial colonies couldn’t be used for global correlation, it does provide information on prokaryotic diversity and ecology as well as on palaeoenvironmental conditions

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