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The Doushantuo Formation at Weng'an in Guizhou Province, South China, is best known for animal embryo-like microfossils preserved in phosphorites. However, this unit also contains a diverse assemblage of three-dimensionally phosphatized acanthomorphic acritarchs, which are useful in the biostratigraphic subdivision and correlation of the lower–middle Ediacaran System. These acritarchs can be studied using both thin sectioning and acid maceration techniques, thus have the potential to resolve taxonomic inconsistencies between acritarchs preserved in cherts and shales. This paper presents a systematic treatment of acanthomorphs (and related spheroidal microfossils) from the Doushantuo Formation at Weng'an. More than 40 distinct species are described, including the following new species: Asterocapsoides robustus n. sp., Knollisphaeridium? bifurcatum n. sp., Megasphaera cymbala n. sp., Megasphaera patella n. sp., Megasphaera puncticulosa n. sp., Mengeosphaera eccentrica n. gen. n. sp., Papillomembrana boletiformis n. sp., Sinosphaera variabilis n. sp., Tanarium victor n. sp., Tianzhushania rara n. sp., Variomargosphaeridium gracile n. sp., and Weissiella brevis n. sp. The Weng'an microfossil assemblage is dominated by Megasphaera and Mengeosphaera but shares some taxa that are characteristic of the Tianzhushania spinosa biozone and the Tanarium conoideum–Hocosphaeridium scaberfacium–Hocosphaeridium anozos biozone recognized in the Yangtze Gorges area. It may represent a transitional assemblage between these two biozones. The Weng'an microfossil assemblage also shares some elements with Ediacaran acanthomorph assemblages from Australia, Siberia, and East European Platform, indicating at least partial biostratigraphic overlap with those assemblages. Among the taxa described here, T. spinosa and H. anozos emerges as easily recognizable and widely distributed acanthomorph species whose first appearance may be used to define acanthomorph biozones for regional and global biostratigraphic correlation of lower–middle Ediacaran successions.
Recent description of the oral cone of Anomalocaris canadensis from the Burgess Shale (Cambrian Series 3, Stage 5) highlighted significant differences from published accounts of this iconic species, and prompts a new evaluation of its morphology as a whole. All known specimens of A. canadensis, including previously unpublished material, were examined with the aim of providing a cohesive morphological description of this stem lineage arthropod. In contrast to previous descriptions, the dorsal surface of the head is shown to be covered by a small, oval carapace in close association with paired stalked eyes, and the ventral surface bears only the triradial oral cone, with no evidence of a hypostome or an anterior sclerite. The frontal appendages reveal new details of the arthrodial membranes and a narrower cross-section in dorsal view than previously reconstructed. The posterior body region reveals a complex suite of digestive, respiratory, and locomotory characters that include a differentiated foregut and hindgut, a midgut with paired glands, gill-like setal blades, and evidence of muscle bundles and struts that presumably supported the swimming movement of the body flaps. The tail fan includes a central blade in addition to the previously described three pairs of lateral blades. Some of these structures have not been identified in other anomalocaridids, making Anomalocaris critical for understanding the functional morphology of the group as a whole and corroborating its arthropod affinities.
In Ediacaran shallow-water dolomites of the Doushantuo Formation (ca. 570 Ma) of southern China, scarce phosphatized microfossils consisting of clusters of coil-like spheroids called Spiralicellula bulbifera and co-occurring spherical forms with helically arranged holes named Helicoforamina wenganica are interpreted to belong to the same taxon because both have a similar relative abundance and both, uniquely in the assemblage, exhibit a consistent dextral spiral feature—the oldest known fossil examples of fixed asymmetry. Thus, we interpret them as different stages of sexual and asexual life cycles in which the spiral structure was maintained throughout most of the developmental phases. While they can be placed with the acritarchs, we suggest they are a chlorophycean green alga, and like many Ediacaran macrofossils, may represent an extinct clade. This is compatible with the shoal-water marine depositional environment in which they lived, as it would have favored photosynthetic organisms over others kinds of encysting non-metazoan protists. This setting militates against their interpretation as putative embryos which has been put forward for a variety of forms co-occurring in the microfossil assemblage. The multiple affinities of the strikingly diverse biota remain far from resolved, but algal origins warrant further consideration.
A new specimen of Bohaiornis guoi from the Jiufotang Formation, comprising a nearly complete skeleton, sheds light on enantiornithine morphological variation and ecological specialization. The new specimen was collected from near Lamadong Village in Liaoning Province, which is the same area where the sub-adult holotype specimen was reported. It provides new information on the cranial and pectoral girdle anatomy of the species, e.g., broad nasal, strikingly robust acromion, medially curved acrocoracoid process. In contrast to the holotype, the newly referred specimen has small rounded stones in the thoracic region that in other extinct taxa has been interpreted as direct evidence of diet. Direct evidence of diet is so far unknown in other Enantiornithes. Specifically the lack of “stomach stones” or gastroliths in enantiornithines despite their excellent fossil record has been proposed to be related to their insectivorous diet as well as to their arboreal ecology. We hypothesize that cranial morphology as well as the number and shape of the preserved stones in Bohaiornis may be most consistent with a raptorial ecology previously unknown for Enantiornithes and considered rare for Avialae. While rostrum shape has a strong relationship to feeding ecology in living birds, in basal avialan birds most diversity is in dental morphology, number, and distribution of the teeth.
Lutetian lower middle Eocene phosphate deposits of Kpogamé-Hahotoé in Togo yield new information about whales and sea cows in West Africa. Most specimens are individual teeth and bones, collected as isolated elements, but some appear to have been associated. Most are conservatively interpreted to represent a new 300–400 kg protocetid archaeocete, Togocetus traversei. This genus and species is distinctly primitive for a protocetid in retaining a relatively small mandibular canal in the dentary and retaining a salient metaconid on the lower first molar (M1), but it is derived relative to earlier archaeocetes in having large, dense, osteosclerotic tympanic bullae. Mandibular canal size and large dense bullae are not as tightly linked in terms of function in hearing as previously thought. Postcranially Togocetus traversei had many characteristics found in other semiaquatic protocetids: a relatively long neck, mobile shoulder, digitigrade manus, large pelvis, well-developed hind limbs, and feet specialized for swimming. Loss of a fovea on the head of the femur indicates loss of the teres ligament stabilizing the hip, which is a derived specialization consistent with life in water. Protocetid specimens distinctly smaller and larger than those of Togocetus traversei indicate the presence of at least three protocetids at Kpogamé. Sirenian vertebral and rib pieces indicate the presence of a protosirenid and a dugongid. Finally, a vertebral centrum and piece of humerus appear to represent a large land mammal. A diverse fauna of archaic whales and early sirenians inhabited the western margin of Africa and the eastern Atlantic Ocean as early as 46–44 million years before present, showing that both cetaceans and sirenians were widely distributed geographically by this time.
The examination of 730 borings within 88 brachiopod hosts form the Middle Devonian of central New York State revealed four ichnospecies belonging to three ichnogenera that have taxonomic histories riddled with confusion, controversy and contradiction. New observations of the ichnotaxa question long-held views of a simple morphologic differentiation between sponge borings and worm borings. ClionoidesFenton and Fenton, 1932 is here considered a sponge boring, which is comprised of a complex, multi-dimensional system of tunnels, shafts, canals, microterraced bowl-shaped structures and cone extensions, and is a senior synonym of Paleosabella (McCoy 1855) and VermiforichnusCameron, 1969a. ClionolithesClarke, 1908 is a sponge boring possessing a rosette, branching network extending from a central node and is a senior synonym of NododendrinaVogel et al., 1987 and RamodendrinaVogel et al., 1987. The creation of Canaliparva circularis n. ichnogen. n. ichnosp. is needed to accommodate simple, vertically oriented, U-shaped tunnels that are indicative of worm activity. Paleoecologic evidence supports a commensal relationship between the endoliths and hosts based upon boring site frequencies in the hosts, boring patterns and five inter-specific co-occurrences between traces. These new data suggest greater diversity and ecologic complexity in ichnofaunal paleocommunities from the Middle Devonian than previously recognized.
Nilpenia rossi new genus new species, described here from the Ediacara Member (Rawnsley Quartzite, South Australia), provides evidence of a Precambrian macroscopic sessile sediment-dweller. Nilpenia, ranging up to 30 cm in diameter, consists of two zones, a complex central area surrounded by radiating, dichotomously branching structures that decrease in diameter from the center to the outer edges. Other elements of the Ediacara Biota are interpreted to have been mat-encrusters but Nilpenia uniquely grew within the upper millimeters of the actual sediment displacing sediment with growth. This sediment surface was rippled and cohesive and may well have included an endobenthic mat. The branching network on the upper surface of the organisms would have been in contact with the water. The phylogenetic relationships of the Ediacara biota are not well constrained and Nilpenia is no exception. However, the morphology and ecology of Nilpenia represent a novel growth strategy present in the Ediacaran and not common today.
The marine gastropod genus Struthiochenopus appears first in the late Cretaceous of the Antarctic Peninsula. Until the Oligocene only one or two species were extant at the same time. This changed drastically in the early Miocene when at least three species were living coevally in southern South America. A possible fourth early Miocene species, Struthiochenopus sp., is known from Ipún Island, Chile, but its identification remains unclear. Another taxon, S. echtleri new species, described from Neogene deposits of Mocha Island, Chile, has no precise age available but it is likely the latest survivor of the genus.
Hyolithids are a group of Paleozoic lophotrochozoans with a four-pieced skeleton consisting of a conch, an operculum, and a pair of lateral ‘spines' named helens. Both the conch and operculum are relatively well known and, to a certain extent, have modern analogues in other lophotrochozoan groups. The helens, on the other hand, are less well known and do not have clear modern analogues. This has hindered the knowledge of the complete morphology of the hyolithid skeleton, as well as other aspects of hyolithid biology, such as the organization of soft parts, and their ability to move. The material studied herein, consisting of disarticulated skeletal elements from the Silurian of Gotland, Sweden, illustrates a complete developmental sequence of a hyolithid species and includes the first complete, three-dimensionally preserved helens. Our material confirms that helens were massive skeletal elements, whose growth started proximally with the deposition of a central, coherent lamella. Further shell accretion took place around this lamella, but followed a particular accretion pattern probably constrained by the presence of marginal muscle attachment sites on the proximal-most portion of the helens. These muscle attachment sites were ideally located to allow a wide range of movements for the helens, suggesting that hyolithids may have been relatively mobile organisms.
The first-described articulated Permian sponge from Brazil, representing Hexactinellida, has been recovered from the Lontras Shale in the Campáleo outcrop (Permian, Asselian–Sakmarian), Rio do Sul Formation, Mafra, in southern Brazil. It is assigned to the Hemidiscellidae and identified as Microhemidiscia greinerti n. sp. This fossil represents the first record of articulated sponges in Brazil from the Paleozoic Era, as well as the second species known from this genus. Moreover, it increases knowledge of the order Hemidiscosa, a monotypic group mostly defined by simple characters, which is here considered to comprise one family, Hemidiscellidae (Pennsylvanian-Cretaceous), and two genera, Hemidiscella and Microhemidiscia.
Taxonomic descriptions of diploporites from the middle Silurian of eastern Laurentia have focused nearly entirely on thecal plating, with minimal description or figuring of attachment structures. A recently discovered hardground surface within the Wenlock-age (Sheinwoodian) Massie Formation that is encrusted by numerous well-preserved pelmatozoan holdfasts, including structures identifiable as diploporite thecal attachments, provides an opportunity to document the morphology of these rarely described structures. Moderately thin-walled structures with a parabolic, depressed central area composed of seven distinct marginal plates with prominent pores appear to represent thecal attachments of the broad-based trematocystinid holocystitid Paulicystis. Thick-walled, steep-sided structures composed of five to seven fused or partially fused plates with less prominent pores, a deep stelar depression, and radiating canals appear to represent thecal attachments of undetermined, possibly holocystinid or pentacystinid holocystitids. All diploporite holdfasts are cemented to fine-grained, well-sorted skeletal substrates on elevated crests of the hardground surface, but are not found on microbioherms.
Plesiosaurs and mosasaurs are identified from the Puskwaskau Formation of west-central Alberta, Canada. These deposits record the final stages during which the Western Interior Seaway remained open to the Boreal Sea to the North and therefore are important for determining the ranges of high-latitude marine reptiles. Polycotylid and elasmosaurid plesiosaurs shared these waters with russellosaurine (including plioplatecarpine) mosasaurs suggesting a diverse ecology of large-bodied marine predators occupied these high-latitude waters in the early Campanian. This locality, situated at 65°N paleolatitude, helps link the poorly known faunas from northern Canada with the better-known faunas from central and southern North America. Rare articulated material from the Puskwaskau Formation urges further investigation of this poorly explored unit.
Bioerosion trace fossils in bones are defined as biogenic structures that cut or destroy hard bone tissue as the result of mechanical and/or chemical processes. Under the premise that their paleoecological potential can completely be realized only through correct taxonomic assignment, this work focuses on the methodology for naming these biogenic structures. Thus, we propose the following ichnotaxobases in order to assist in naming trace fossils in bones: general morphology, bioglyphs, filling, branching, pattern of occurrence, and site of emplacement. The most common general morphologies are: pits and holes (borings); chambers; trails; tubes; channels (canals); grooves; striae; and furrows. The main types of bioglyphs are grooves and scratches, which may display different arrangements, such as parallel and opposing, or arcuate paired. The nature of the fill may help recognition of the origin, composition, and relationship with the surrounding sediment, as well as processes of destruction or consumption of bony tissue. The structure and layout of the filling, such as meniscate backfill or pelleted filling, offer information about the bioeroding processes. Branching structures on cortical bone are present in canals and furrows. Where the trace penetrates spongy bone, branching structures are forming tunnels that may connect internal chambers. The common patterns of occurrence are individual, paired, grouped, overlapping, lined, and arcuate. The site of emplacement may be in cortical bone, spongy bone, articular surfaces, internal bone microstructures, and external bone anatomical structures. The use of substrate as an ichnotaxobase is problematic, but as biological substrate, bone itself is a valuable source of information for paleoecologic and ethologic inferences. Given the paleontological importance of bioerosion trace fossils in bones, we underscore interactions between ichnology and other sciences, such as forensic entomology, archaeology, paleoecology, and taphonomy.