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Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago

El Albani, Abderrazak; Bengtson, Stefan; Canfield, Donald E; Bekker, Andrey; Macchiarelli, Roberto; Mazurier, Arnaud; Hammarlund, Emma U LU ; Boulvais, Philippe; Dupuy, Jean-Jacques and Fontaine, Claude, et al. (2010) In Nature 466(7302). p.4-100
Abstract

The evidence for macroscopic life during the Palaeoproterozoic era (2.5-1.6 Gyr ago) is controversial. Except for the nearly 2-Gyr-old coil-shaped fossil Grypania spiralis, which may have been eukaryotic, evidence for morphological and taxonomic biodiversification of macroorganisms only occurs towards the beginning of the Mesoproterozoic era (1.6-1.0 Gyr). Here we report the discovery of centimetre-sized structures from the 2.1-Gyr-old black shales of the Palaeoproterozoic Francevillian B Formation in Gabon, which we interpret as highly organized and spatially discrete populations of colonial organisms. The structures are up to 12 cm in size and have characteristic shapes, with a simple but distinct ground pattern of flexible sheets... (More)

The evidence for macroscopic life during the Palaeoproterozoic era (2.5-1.6 Gyr ago) is controversial. Except for the nearly 2-Gyr-old coil-shaped fossil Grypania spiralis, which may have been eukaryotic, evidence for morphological and taxonomic biodiversification of macroorganisms only occurs towards the beginning of the Mesoproterozoic era (1.6-1.0 Gyr). Here we report the discovery of centimetre-sized structures from the 2.1-Gyr-old black shales of the Palaeoproterozoic Francevillian B Formation in Gabon, which we interpret as highly organized and spatially discrete populations of colonial organisms. The structures are up to 12 cm in size and have characteristic shapes, with a simple but distinct ground pattern of flexible sheets and, usually, a permeating radial fabric. Geochemical analyses suggest that the sediments were deposited under an oxygenated water column. Carbon and sulphur isotopic data indicate that the structures were distinct biogenic objects, fossilized by pyritization early in the formation of the rock. The growth patterns deduced from the fossil morphologies suggest that the organisms showed cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated responses, as is commonly associated with multicellular organization. The Gabon fossils, occurring after the 2.45-2.32-Gyr increase in atmospheric oxygen concentration, may be seen as ancient representatives of multicellular life, which expanded so rapidly 1.5 Gyr later, in the Cambrian explosion.

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@article{463e16da-11d7-4981-87f3-ce3951c6d02a,
  abstract     = {<p>The evidence for macroscopic life during the Palaeoproterozoic era (2.5-1.6 Gyr ago) is controversial. Except for the nearly 2-Gyr-old coil-shaped fossil Grypania spiralis, which may have been eukaryotic, evidence for morphological and taxonomic biodiversification of macroorganisms only occurs towards the beginning of the Mesoproterozoic era (1.6-1.0 Gyr). Here we report the discovery of centimetre-sized structures from the 2.1-Gyr-old black shales of the Palaeoproterozoic Francevillian B Formation in Gabon, which we interpret as highly organized and spatially discrete populations of colonial organisms. The structures are up to 12 cm in size and have characteristic shapes, with a simple but distinct ground pattern of flexible sheets and, usually, a permeating radial fabric. Geochemical analyses suggest that the sediments were deposited under an oxygenated water column. Carbon and sulphur isotopic data indicate that the structures were distinct biogenic objects, fossilized by pyritization early in the formation of the rock. The growth patterns deduced from the fossil morphologies suggest that the organisms showed cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated responses, as is commonly associated with multicellular organization. The Gabon fossils, occurring after the 2.45-2.32-Gyr increase in atmospheric oxygen concentration, may be seen as ancient representatives of multicellular life, which expanded so rapidly 1.5 Gyr later, in the Cambrian explosion.</p>},
  author       = {El Albani, Abderrazak and Bengtson, Stefan and Canfield, Donald E and Bekker, Andrey and Macchiarelli, Roberto and Mazurier, Arnaud and Hammarlund, Emma U and Boulvais, Philippe and Dupuy, Jean-Jacques and Fontaine, Claude and Fürsich, Franz T and Gauthier-Lafaye, François and Janvier, Philippe and Javaux, Emmanuelle and Ossa, Frantz Ossa and Pierson-Wickmann, Anne-Catherine and Riboulleau, Armelle and Sardini, Paul and Vachard, Daniel and Whitehouse, Martin and Meunier, Alain},
  issn         = {0028-0836},
  keyword      = {Bacteria,Ecosystem,Eukaryota,Fossils,Gabon,Geologic Sediments,History, Ancient,Oxygen,Historical Article,Journal Article,Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {07},
  number       = {7302},
  pages        = {4--100},
  publisher    = {Nature Publishing Group},
  series       = {Nature},
  title        = {Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09166},
  volume       = {466},
  year         = {2010},
}