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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Preservation of erniettomorph fossils in clay-rich siliciclastic deposits from the Ediacaran Wood Canyon Formation, Nevada: Ediacaran preservation in sandstone beds

  • Author(s): Hall, JG
  • Smith, EF
  • Tamura, N
  • Fakra, SC
  • Bosak, T
  • et al.

© 2020 The Authors. Three-dimensionally preserved Ediacaran fossils occur globally within sandstone beds. Sandy siliciclastic deposits of the Ediacaran Wood Canyon Formation (WCF) in the Montgomery Mountains, Nevada, contain two fossil morphologies with similar shapes and sizes: one exhibits mm-scale ridges and a distinct lower boundary and the other is devoid of these diagnostic features. We interpret these as taphomorphs of erniettomorphs, soft-bodied organisms with uncertain taxonomic affinities. We explore the cast-and-mould preservation of both taphomorphs by petrography, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence microprobe and X-ray diffraction. All fossils and the surrounding sedimentary matrix contain quartz grains, iron-rich chlorite and muscovite. The ridged fossils contain about 70% larger quartz grains compared to the ridgeless taphomorph, indicating a lower abundance of clay minerals in the ridged fossil. Chlorite and muscovite likely originated from smectite and kaolinite precursors that underwent lower greenschist facies metamorphism. Kaolinite and smectite are inferred to have been abundant in sediments around the ridged fossil, which enabled the preservation of a continuous, distinct, clay- and kerogen-rich bottom boundary. The prevalence of quartz in the ridged fossils of the WCF and in erniettomorphs from other localities also suggests a role for this mineral in three-dimensional preservation of erniettomorphs in sandstone and siltstone deposits.

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