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Fenxiang biota: a new Early Ordovician shallow-water fauna with soft-part preservation from China

Balinski, Andrzej, Sun, Yuanlin
Science bulletin 2015 v.60 pp. 812-818
Nematoda, appendages, arthropods, biodiversity, corals, fauna, fossils, tissues, China
Our perception of biodiversity in the geological past is incomplete and biased because most organisms did not have mineralized skeletons and therefore had little chance of fossilization. This especially refers to shallow-water marine environments, rarely represented by localities with exceptional preservation of fossil material (known as taphonomic windows or Konservat-Lagerstätten). Such extraordinary “windows” may markedly broaden our knowledge of biodiversity of the past. Here, we show a review of the invertebrate fossils from recently discovered locality in the Lower Ordovician Fenxiang Formation of Hubei Province in southern China revealing exceptional preservation of soft tissues. The fauna, generally of shallow-water aspect, contains linguloid brachiopods with a remarkably preserved pedicle, the oldest traces of nematode life activities, the oldest reliable record of hydroids, the first fossil antipatharian corals, a pyritized colonial organism of unknown affinity, supposed arthropod appendages, probable phosphatized scalidophoran worm embryo and other fossils. Our discovery supports the opinion that the famous soft-bodied preservation of Burgess Shale- or Chengjiang-type did not vanish from the fossil record in post-Cambrian times. The new finding represents a prelude to the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event and provides evidence for calibration of molecular clock of several invertebrate lineages.