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Piecing together the puzzle of the Ediacara Biota: Excavation and reconstruction at the Ediacara National Heritage site Nilpena (South Australia)

Droser, Mary L., Gehling, James G., Tarhan, Lidya G., Evans, Scott D., Hall, Christine M.S., Hughes, Ian V., Hughes, Emily B., Dzaugis, Mary E., Dzaugis, Matthew P., Dzaugis, Peter W., Rice, Dennis
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.513 pp. 132-145
developmental stages, evolution, fauna, fossils, quartzite, taxonomy, South Australia
Patterns of origination and evolution of early complex life on this planet are interpreted largely from the fossils of the Precambrian soft-bodied Ediacara Biota. Excavation and reconstruction of beds of the Ediacara Member of the Rawnsley Quartzite at the National Heritage Ediacara fossil site Nilpena, in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia has exposed nearly 300 square meters of fossiliferous bedding planes. As a result, the taphonomy and sedimentology of the succession are well-constrained, rendering it possible to disentangle ecological from environmental and taphonomic signals. The fossil record that is preserved on these beds is a function of a number of factors including 1) sedimentary environment; 2) initial colonization; 3) nature of textured organic surfaces; 4) duration of time between episodes of disturbance; and 5) biostratinomic processes. The excavation and reconstruction of beds at Nilpena yield an exceptional and unique opportunity to examine not only the taxonomic composition of Ediacara communities but also their ecological character at various stages of development. Preserved ecological ‘snapshots’ of fossil assemblages range from immature communities of small-bodied individuals, associated with poorly developed organic mats to communities characterized by a high diversity of macrofaunal taxa, wide range of body sizes and the presence of dense textured organic surfaces.