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Golubić & Zhang, 1985

Phycological expertise in geological applications

Golubić, S., Zhang, Y.
PublisherSpringer Nature
Typearticle in journal


Our knowledge about fossil algae has been biased for a long time towards groups with calcified tissues such as dasyclads and crustose rhodophytes. This picture has recently begun to change owing to the growing number of discoveries of silicified microbial fossils and fossil microbial endoliths. There is good evidence that both groups contain a large proportion of photosynthetic organisms, particularly algae. Silicified microbial fossils are best known from the Precambrian strata, while microbial endoliths, which apparently evolved during middle to late Precambrian times are common throughout the Phanerozoic including the present. Because of the small size of these fossils, it is possible to study and morphometrically evaluate entire populations rather than individual specimens or body fragments. Thus, we are able to approach fossil taxa using largely biological rather than strictly paleontological criteria and to apply interpretations and reconstructions of biological species. Phycologists entering this field can contribute to the interpretation of such fossils by applying comparisons with modern algae, their life cycles, cellular organization, and cell division patterns. However, they have to learn to deal with post-mortem degradation and diagenetic changes, and to recognize algal remains from mineral features that surround and often obliterate the fossils. This work is often similar to that of a detective or coroner where the use of intuition and imagination is just as dangerous as it is necessary. Detection of microfossils between and within single carbonate grains in otherwise ‘unfossiliferous’ rocks can provide valuable information for applied geology including petroleum exploration.

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