Research Student 2012
Project Title: Palaeobiology of exceptionally preserved acanthomorphic acritarchs from phosphorite pebbles in the Biskopas Formation of Southern Norway
Supervisors: Prof Nicholas Butterfield, Dr Phil Wilby (British Geological Survey)
The Ediacaran Period (635-542 Ma) saw the remarkable appearance of large microfossils succeeding the Cryogenian glaciations. These microfossils form a highly diverse assemblage of large acanthomorphic acritarchs that are present from the Early to the Middle Ediacaran (635-570 Ma). Prior to this assemblage, Precambrian microfossils were premoninantly of low abundance and diversity. The appearance of this Ediacaran assemblage therefore marks a transition from the slow evolutionary change typical of the Precambrian to the fast rates of evolutionary change we observe in the present (and throughout the Phanerozoic).
This assemblage is best known from the Doushantuo Formation in South China, where these microfossils have been exceptionally well preserved in phosphate and silica, and has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of early animal evolution. Of particular interest in this formation is the exceptional preservation in phosphate, which, in addition to providing a better understanding of the palaeobiology, gives us an insight into the chemical cycle of the biolimiting nutrient Phosphorus in the Ediacaran. Thus, formations containing exceptionally preserved Ediacaran microfossils in phosphate are of enormous importance.
Phosphorite pebbles of the Biskopas Formation in Norway are the only other example of such preservation of this microfossil assemblage, yet they have received little attention. The aim of my PhD is to revisit the Biskopas Formation in order to better understand this enigmatic microfossil assemblage and the circumstances of its preservation, and what implications this may have on our view of the Ediacaran World.