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Constraining the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary in South China using acanthomorphic acritarchs and Palaeopascichnus fossils
Odonnell, Kenneth H.
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The Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary is arguably the most critical transition in Earth history. This boundary is currently defined by the GSSP (Global Stratotype Section and Point) at Fortune Head (Newfoundland, Canada) at a point that was once regarded as the first appearance of the branching trace fossil Treptichnus pedum. However, T. pedum has been subsequently found below the GSSP, and its distribution is largely restricted to sandstone facies where chemostratigraphic correlation tools are difficult to apply. Thus, the stratigraphic value of the Fortune Head GSSP has come under scrutiny, and there is a need to search for an alternative definition of this boundary using other biostratigraphic criteria. Investigations of acanthomorphic acritarchs in basal Cambrian strata of South China suggest that these microfossils may provide an appropriate biostratigraphic marker for the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary, because of their wide distribution in chert-phosphorite layers intercalated with carbonates and shales, thus allowing their biostratigraphic occurrences to be calibrated with small shelly fossil (SSF) biostratigraphy and carbon isotope chemostratigraphy. Acanthomorphic acritarchs of the Asteridium-Heliosphaeridium-Comasphaeridium (AHC) assemblage zone have been identified at 11 localities in chert-phosphorite layers in the basal Cambrian Yanjiahe, Liuchapo, and Niutitang formations. These localities span a 300 km transect in South China, with depositional environments varying from a shallow carbonate shelf, to an outer shelf-slope transition and an open ocean slope-basin. The Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary can be bracketed between basal Cambrian AHC assemblage and the upper Ediacaran fossils, Horodyskia minor and Palaeopascichnus jiumenensis (HmPj assemblage zone), which occur in the lower Liuchapo Formation. There is no stratigraphic overlap between the AHC and HmPj assemblage zones. Available data show that the AHC assemblage zone is in close stratigraphic proximity with the basal Cambrian SSFs and a negative "13C excursion near the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary. Thus, in South China, the first occurrences of AHC assemblage microfossils and last occurrences of HmPj fossils can effectively "bookend" the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary to fine-scale resolution (down to 0.5 m in present study) in the Yanjiahe and Liuchapo formations. We propose that the AHC assemblage can be used to redefine the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary and this proposal should be tested with detailed acanthomorph biostratigraphy beyond South China.
- Masters Theses