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Doushantuo fossils are not giant bacteria, but bacterial pseudomorphs of animal embryos
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2008 (English)In: The Palaeontological Association: 52nd Annual Meeting 18th–21st December 2008, 2008Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Embryos from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation are among the most astonishing examples of exceptional fossilization. However, the mechanism of fossilization is

poorly understood, leading directly to debate over the interpretation of the fossils, some

authors even questioning their interpretation as embryos. It has been hypothesized that

microbial processes are responsible for preservation and mineralization of organic tissues.

However, the actions of microbes in preservation of embryos have not been demonstrated

experimentally. We show that bacterial biofilms assemble rapidly in marine embryos,

forming detailed pseudomorphs of cellular organization and structure. We define three

essential steps in embryo preservation: 1) blockage of autolysis by reducing or anaerobic conditions; 2) rapid formation of microbial biofilms that consume the embryo but

form a replica that retains cell organization and morphology; 3) bacterially-catalyzed

mineralization. We identified major bacterial taxa in embryo decay biofilms using

16S rDNA sequencing. Decay processes were similar in different taphonomic conditions,

but bacterial populations depended on specific conditions. Experimental taphonomy

resembles preservation states of fossils. Our data show how fossilization of soft tissues in

sediments is mediated by bacterial replacement and mineralization, providing a foundation

for experimentally creating biofilms from defined microbial species to model fossilization as

a biological process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-16237OAI: diva2:182757
Available from: 2008-12-15 Created: 2008-12-15Bibliographically approved

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