Project 587 - Identity, Facies and Time - The Ediacaran (Vendian) Puzzle

This project is particularly interested in the precise timing of Proterozoic events, the effects that changing environments of the time, climates, global ocean and atmospheric chemistry and palaeogeography had on the development and diversification of animals, culminating in the spectacular Ediacaran/Vendian faunas. These biotas are best represented along the Winter Coast of the White Sea in Russia, the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, the deserts of southern Namibia and the coastal outcrops of Newfoundland, but other, less biodiverse, faunas may provide significant input regarding the origin and demise of this unique metazoan assemblage. Furthermore, working out what controls the makeup of these globally distributed assemblages, facies or evolutionary stages, with their biostratigraphic implications, is a central issue to this proposal.

This project aims to extend the work begun by IGCP493 (2003-2009) in attempting to locate additional material from areas with a sparse Ediacaran biotic record (South America, Middle East, Siberia, Mongolia), but with marked palaeobiogeographic interest; to closely compare those settings (using sedimentology and detailed basin analysis, carbon and oxygen isotope input, palaeogeography) where some of the most abundant Edicaran biotas have been collected. This project will allow the proposers and associates to increase significantly the data base (and stimulate further discussion and joint research) of some of those less biodiverse, yet specimen abundant, assemblages, such as those in Namibia, as well as classic sites in the Ukraine, Siberia, and the Urals, and microsites in Mongolia, China, the White Sea, Australia. The project will attempt to push further back in time and examine older assemblages, such as those in the Bangamall Basin of Western Australia and new material from Tasmania, where some of the oldest probable records of multicellular organisms have been reported. We hope to access other sequences that themselves predate the oldest metazoan producing sediments in a hunt for the ancestors of the Ediacarans.  Beyond that some younger sediments, such as the Kangaroo Island Cambrian locales and others globally will be searched for the offspring and latest survivors of the Ediacarans in a quest to work out what happened to this diverse and enigmatic fauna that was successful for at least 40 million years.

In doing so, we wish to bring together researchers across many disciplines to examine and gain experience with the Ediacaran assemblages worldwide, to involve students and non-scientists, artists, documentary makers, etc. in the hope of markedly increasing the amount of material from some of the lesser known locales, refining the dating of all of these locales, and popularizing the research results to a broader audience. By understanding the sequence and rate of occurrence of such biotic events during the Neoproterozoic and their drivers, we may gain useful wisdom concerning predicting future climate and setting down policy that insure future sustainable habitability of the Earth.

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