Biological and Ecological Insights from the Preservational Variability of Funisia dorothea, Ediacara Member, South Australia
The Ediacara Biota represent a turning point in the evolution of life on Earth, signifying the transition from single celled organisms to complex, community forming macrobiota. The exceptional fossil record of the soft-bodied Ediacara Biota provides critical insight into the nature of this transition and into ecosystem dynamics leading up to the so-called “Cambrian Explosion”. However, the preservation of non-biomineralizing organisms in a diversity of lithologies goes hand-in-hand with considerable taphonomic complexity that often shrouds true ecological and biological signatures. We address the nature of this taphonomic complexity within the fossiliferous sandstones of the Ediacara Member in South Australia. Utilizing the most data-rich and well-preserved outcropping of the Ediacara Member, the Nilpena Station National Heritage Ediacara Fossil Site, we conduct a focused, taxon-level taphonomic characterization of the tubular organism Funisia dorothea. Funisia is the most abundant body fossil in the Ediacara Member, making its taphonomic characterization essential to the accurate interpretation of regional paleobiology and paleoecology. We identify two primary modes of Funisia population structure, cluster-type and surface-type packages, each of which exhibit distinct suites of taphonomic variation in individual Funisia. Within the two package types, four preservational modes of Funisia are identified: convex external molds, concave external molds, convex internal molds, and concave internal molds. Among macrofossils at Nilpena, this tiered preservational complexity is unique to Funisia; its systematic classification elucidates population-level biostratinomy at Nilpena as well as aspects of Funisia’s paleobiology and autecology.