Microbial mat structures in the basal Ediacaran Doushantuo cap dolostone from the Yangtze Gorges area of South China and their environmental implications

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Zhou Wang1,2, Jiasheng Wang1,3, Shuhai Xiao2 and Jun Hu3, (1)China University of Geosciences Wuhan, Wuhan, China, (2)Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, United States, (3)State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology, Wuhan, China
Environmental changes after the terminal Cryogenian snowball Earth event have been debated extensively in the literature. But there have been relatively few studies on the biotic response in the aftermath of this snowball Earth event. In fact, a variety of potential microbial facies are preserved in basal Ediacaran cap dolostones as peloids, clotted fabrics, and morphologically diverse microbialites (e. g., tube-like stromatolites and stratiform biolaminites). In South China, centimeter-sized domal and conical stromatolites consisting of wavy or wrinkled microbial mats occur at the top of the Doushantuo cap dolostone. Sedimentological investigation of these stromatolites on outcrop and in core samples from the Yangtze Gorges area suggests that they are likely biological in origin. These stromatolites are characterized by vertical accumulation of dark and light laminae. The dark laminae are sub-millimetric in thickness and are composed of probably biogenic kerogen as determined by Raman spectroscopy. The dark laminae is also rich in pyrite, likely derived from organic degradation by sulfate reduction bacteria. Microsparry calcite occur as cements between the dark laminae. Within the Doushantuo stromatolites, there are patches of randomly oriented calcite needles. The precipitation of these calcite needles may have also been facilitated by microbial processes such bacterial sulfate reduction.

Our study shows that shallow marine environment became habitable soon after the snowball Earth glaciation ended and benthic microbes were among some of the first organisms to colonize these environments.