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Harvey, 2023

Colonial green algae in the Cambrian plankton

Harvey, T. H. P.
AjakiriProceedings of the Royal Society B
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The fossil record indicates a major turnover in marine phytoplankton across the Ediacaran–Cambrian transition, coincident with the rise of animal-rich ecosystems. However, the diversity, affinities and ecologies of Cambrian phytoplankton are poorly understood, leaving unclear the role of animal interactions and the drivers of diversification. New exceptionally preserved acritarchs (problematic organic-walled microfossils) from the late early Cambrian (around 510 Ma) reveal colonial organization characterized by rings and plates of interconnected, geometrically arranged cells. The assemblage exhibits a wide but gradational variation in cell size, ornamentation and intercell connection, interpreted as representing one or more species with determinate (coenobial) colony formation via cell division, aggregation and growth by cell expansion. An equivalent strategy is known only among green algae, specifically chlorophycean chlorophytes. The fossils differ in detail from modern freshwater examples and apparently represent an earlier convergent radiation in marine settings. Known trade-offs between sinking risk and predator avoidance in colonial phytoplankton point to adaptations triggered by intensifying grazing pressure during a Cambrian metazoan invasion of the water column. The new fossils reveal that not all small acritarchs are unicellular resting cysts, and support an early Palaeozoic prominence of green algal phytoplankton as predicted by molecular biomarkers.

Viimati muudetud: 11.11.2023
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