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Critical appraisal of tubular putative eumetazoans from the Ediacaran Weng'an Doushantuo biota


Cunningham, John A; Vargas, Kelly; Pengju, Liu; Belivanova, Veneta; Marone, Federica; Martínez-Pérez, Carlos; Guizar-Sicairos, Manuel; Holler, Mirko; Bengtson, Stefan; Donoghue, Philip C J (2015). Critical appraisal of tubular putative eumetazoans from the Ediacaran Weng'an Doushantuo biota. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 282(1812):20151169.

Abstract

Molecular clock analyses estimate that crown-group animals began diversifying hundreds of millions of years before the start of the Cambrian period. However, the fossil record has not yielded unequivocal evidence for animals during this interval. Some of the most promising candidates for Precambrian animals occur in the Weng'an biota of South China, including a suite of tubular fossils assigned to Sinocyclocyclicus, Ramitubus, Crassitubus and Quadratitubus, that have been interpreted as soft-bodied eumetazoans comparable to tabulate corals. Here, we present new insights into the anatomy, original composition and phylogenetic affinities of these taxa based on data from synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy, ptychographic nanotomography, scanning electron microscopy and electron probe microanalysis. The patterns of deformation observed suggest that the cross walls of Sinocyclocyclicus and Quadratitubus were more rigid than those of Ramitubus and Crassitubus. Ramitubus and Crassitubus specimens preserve enigmatic cellular clusters at terminal positions in the tubes. Specimens of Sinocyclocyclicus and Ramitubus have biological features that might be cellular tissue or subcellular structures filling the spaces between the cross walls. These observations are incompatible with a cnidarian interpretation, in which the spaces between cross walls are abandoned parts of the former living positions of the polyp. The affinity of the Weng'an tubular fossils may lie within the algae.

Abstract

Molecular clock analyses estimate that crown-group animals began diversifying hundreds of millions of years before the start of the Cambrian period. However, the fossil record has not yielded unequivocal evidence for animals during this interval. Some of the most promising candidates for Precambrian animals occur in the Weng'an biota of South China, including a suite of tubular fossils assigned to Sinocyclocyclicus, Ramitubus, Crassitubus and Quadratitubus, that have been interpreted as soft-bodied eumetazoans comparable to tabulate corals. Here, we present new insights into the anatomy, original composition and phylogenetic affinities of these taxa based on data from synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy, ptychographic nanotomography, scanning electron microscopy and electron probe microanalysis. The patterns of deformation observed suggest that the cross walls of Sinocyclocyclicus and Quadratitubus were more rigid than those of Ramitubus and Crassitubus. Ramitubus and Crassitubus specimens preserve enigmatic cellular clusters at terminal positions in the tubes. Specimens of Sinocyclocyclicus and Ramitubus have biological features that might be cellular tissue or subcellular structures filling the spaces between the cross walls. These observations are incompatible with a cnidarian interpretation, in which the spaces between cross walls are abandoned parts of the former living positions of the polyp. The affinity of the Weng'an tubular fossils may lie within the algae.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:09 Feb 2016 11:03
Last Modified:09 Aug 2017 01:31
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8452
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.1169
PubMed ID:26180072

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