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Palaeolatitudinal distribution of the Ediacaran macrobiota

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Macrofossils of the late Ediacaran Period (c. 579–539 Ma) document diverse, complex multicellular eukaryotes, including early animals, prior to the Cambrian radiation of metazoan phyla. To investigate the relationships between environmental perturbations, biotic responses and early metazoan evolutionary trajectories, it is vital to distinguish between evolutionary and ecological controls on the global distribution of Ediacaran macrofossils. The contributions of temporal, palaeoenvironmental and lithological factors in shaping the observed variations in assemblage taxonomic composition between Ediacaran macrofossil sites are widely discussed, but the role of palaeogeography remains ambiguous. Here we investigate the influence of palaeolatitude on the spatial distribution of Ediacaran macrobiota through the late Ediacaran Period using two leading palaeogeographical reconstructions. We find that overall generic diversity was distributed across all palaeolatitudes. Among specific groups, the distributions of candidate ‘Bilateral’ and Frondomorph taxa exhibit weakly statistically significant and statistically significant differences between low and high palaeolatitudes within our favoured palaeogeographical reconstruction, respectively, whereas Algal, Tubular, Soft-bodied and Biomineralizing taxa show no significant difference. The recognition of statistically significant palaeolatitudinal differences in the distribution of certain morphogroups highlights the importance of considering palaeolatitudinal influences when interrogating trends in Ediacaran taxon distributions.



37 Earth Sciences, 3709 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience, 3702 Climate Change Science

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Journal of the Geological Society

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Geological Society of London


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Natural Environment Research Council (NE/L011409/2)
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/S014756/1)
NERC DCO Richard Lounsbery Foundation MSCA-IF