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      Earth's oldest jellyfish strandings: a unique taphonomic window or just another day at the beach?

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          Abstract

          Discoidal macrofossils reported herein from the lower Cambrian Zabriskie Quartzite (Great Basin, western United States) record the oldest Phanerozoic medusozoan body fossils, as well as the oldest medusozoan stranding event on record. Moreover, these fossils provide evidence of a significant shift in the taphonomic mode characteristic of preservation of nonmineralized taxa in coarse-grained siliciclastic successions near the onset of the Phanerozoic. Taphonomic and sedimentological evidence recorded by these and younger examples of stranded Cambrian medusae is consistent in suggesting that several of the requirements for preservation of these fossils were holdovers from the Ediacaran Period, including the presence of microbial mats and a lack of carcass disturbance by scavenging and/or bioturbating taxa. To shed further light upon the taphonomic factors necessary for the preservation of Cambrian medusae, we compared the biostratinomy and sedimentology of Cambrian medusa strandings to those of Ediacara Biota assemblages from lithologically similar successions. We find key secular disparities in the taphonomic histories of these two types of fossil assemblage. Inconsistencies between the preservational styles characteristic of fossil assemblages preserved in sandstone lithofacies on each side of the Precambrian–Cambrian boundary are explained by a considerable change in the preferred depositional setting in which these macrofossil assemblages are preserved. Thus, rather than documenting a single taphonomic continuum through the Precambrian–Cambrian transition, the Zabriskie and younger medusozoan body fossil assemblages record the advent of an entirely new, yet still very rarely exploited, taphonomic window exclusive to the Cambrian Period.

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          Most cited references 40

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          The Cambrian conundrum: early divergence and later ecological success in the early history of animals.

          Diverse bilaterian clades emerged apparently within a few million years during the early Cambrian, and various environmental, developmental, and ecological causes have been proposed to explain this abrupt appearance. A compilation of the patterns of fossil and molecular diversification, comparative developmental data, and information on ecological feeding strategies indicate that the major animal clades diverged many tens of millions of years before their first appearance in the fossil record, demonstrating a macroevolutionary lag between the establishment of their developmental toolkits during the Cryogenian [(850 to 635 million years ago (Ma)], and the later ecological success of metazoans during the Ediacaran (635 to 541 Ma) and Cambrian (541 to 488 Ma) periods. We argue that this diversification involved new forms of developmental regulation, as well as innovations in networks of ecological interaction within the context of permissive environmental circumstances.
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            Microbial Mats in Terminal Proterozoic Siliciclastics: Ediacaran Death Masks

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              Sequences in the Cratonic Interior of North America

               L Sloss (1963)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                applab
                Geological Magazine
                Geol. Mag.
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                0016-7568
                1469-5081
                July 2017
                June 2016
                : 154
                : 04
                : 859-874
                Article
                10.1017/S0016756816000443
                © 2017

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