Skip to main content Accessibility help

Yangtziramulus zhangi new genus and species, a carbonate-hosted macrofossil from the Ediacaran Dengying Formation in the Yangtze Gorges area, South China

  • Bing Shen (a1), Shuhai Xiao (a1), Chuanming Zhou (a2) and Xunlai Yuan (a2)


Very few macroscopic soft-bodied Ediacaran fossils are hosted in carbonates; most of them are preserved as casts and molds in siliciclastic rocks or as carbonaceous compressions in black shales. This taphonomic bias limits our capability to fully understand the diversity and paleoecology of macroscopic Ediacaran life forms. Previous reports have shown that the upper Ediacaran Dengying Formation in South China and Khatyspyt Formation in Siberia contain macroscopic soft-bodied fossils preserved in bituminous limestone; thus they have the potential to expand our knowledge about the Ediacaran biosphere. However, the biogenecity of the Dengying fossils described in Xiao et al. (2005) has been questioned. In this paper, we provide additional material and arguments in support of the biogenecity of these fossils, which are formally described as Yangtziramulus zhangi new genus and species. Yangtziramulus zhangi consists of a branching system with a central axis and tubes on both sides. The tubes appear to be distally open. Yangtziramulus zhangi is interpreted as a flat-lying benthic organism, as indicated by the mutual avoidance relationship among densely clustered individuals. Yangtziramulus zhangi finds few morphological analogs among modern organisms, but it is broadly similar to several macroscopic Ediacaran forms. Its morphological and ecological complexity is inconsistent with a microbial interpretation. Yangtziramulus zhangi is typically covered by a thin veneer of fine-grained silts, suggesting that it was probably smothered and killed by an episodic flux of silty sediments (event deposits). Its tube walls are replaced with early diagenetic calcspars.


Corresponding author

Current address: Department of Earth Science, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77005


Hide All
Antcliffe, J. B. and Brasier, M. D. 2007a. Charnia and sea pens are poles apart. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 164:4951.
Antcliffe, J. B. and Brasier, M. D. 2007b. Towards a morphospace for the Ediacara biota, p. 377386. In Vickers-Rich, P. and Komarower, P. (eds.), The Rise and Fall of the Ediacaran Biota. Vol. 286. Geological Society Special Publications, London.
Antcliffe, J. B. and Brasier, M. D. 2008. Charnia at 50: Development models for Ediacaran fronds. Palaeontology, 51:1126.
Bowring, S. A., Grotzinger, J. P., Condon, D. J., Ramezani, J., Newall, M. J., and Allen, P. A. 2007. Geochronologic constraints on the chronostratigraphic framework of the Neoproterozoic Huqf Supergroup, Sultanate of Oman. American Journal of Science, 307:10971145.
Boynton, H. E. and Ford, T. D. 1995. Ediacaran fossils from the Precambrian (Charnian Supergroup) of Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, England. Mercian Geologist, 13:165182.
Brasier, M. and Antcliffe, J. 2004. Decoding the Ediacaran enigma. Science, 305:11151117.
Briggs, D. E. G. 2003. The role of decay and mineralization in the preservation of soft-bodied fossils. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 31:275301(doi: 210.1146/
Butterfield, N. J. 2003. Exceptional fossil preservation and the Cambrian Explosion. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43:166177.
Castanier, S., Me'tayer-Levrel, G. l. L., and Perthuisot, J.-P. 1999. Ca-carbonates precipitation and limestone genesis — the microbiogeologist point of view. Sedimentary Geology, 126:923.
Chen, M., Chen, Y., and Qian, Y. 1981. Some tubular fossils from Sinian-Lower Cambrian boundary sequences, Yangtze Gorge. Bulletin, Tianjin Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, 3:117124.
Chen, P. 1984. Discovery of Lower Cambrian small shelly fossils from Jijiapo, Yichang, west Hubei and its significance. Professional Papers on Stratigraphy and Palaeontology, 13:4966.
Chen, Z., Bengtson, S., Zhou, C., Hua, H., and Yue, Z. 2008. Tube structure and original composition of Sinotubulites: Shelly fossils from the late Neoproterozoic in southern Shaanxi, China. Lethaia, 41:3745.
China Commission on Stratigraphy. 2001. Stratigraphic Guide of China and Its Explanatory Notes (revised edition). Geological Publishing House, Beijing, 42 p.
Clapham, M. E. and Narbonne, G. M. 2002. Ediacaran epifaunal tiering. Geology, 30:627630.
Clapham, M. E., Narbonne, G. M., and Gehling, J. G. 2003. Paleoecology of the oldest known animal communities: Ediacaran assemblages at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Paleobiology, 29:527544.
Compston, W., Zhang, Z., and Cooper, J. A. 2008. Futher SHRIMP Geochronology on the early Cambrian of South China. American Journal of Science, 208:399420.
Condon, D., Zhu, M., Bowring, S., Wang, W., Yang, A., and Jin, Y. 2005. U-Pb ages from the Neoproterozoic Doushantuo Formation, China. Science, 308:9598.
Conway Morris, S. 2006. Darwin's dilemma: The realities of the Cambrian “explosion”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 361:1,0691,083. doi:1010.1098/rstb.2006.1846.
Conway Morris, S., Mattes, B. W., and Chen, M. 1990. The early skeletal organism Cloudina: New occurrences from Oman and possibly China. American Journal of Science, 290-A:245260.
Dong, L., Xiao, S., Shen, B., Zhou, C., Li, G., and Yao, J. 2009. Basal Cambrian microfossils from the Yangtze Gorges area (South China) and the Aksu area (Tarim Block, northwestern China). Journal of Paleontology, 83:3044.
Droser, M. L., Gehling, J. G., and Jensen, S. R. 2006. Assemblage palaeoecology of the Ediacara biota: The unabridged edition? Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 232:131147.
Dzik, J. 2003. Anatomical information content in the Ediacaran fossils and their possible zoological affinities. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43:114126.
Fedonkin, M. A. 2003. The origin of Metazoa in the light of the Proterozoic fossil record. Paleontological Research, 7:941.
Fedonkin, M. A., Gehling, J. G., Grey, K., Narbonne, G. M., and Vickers-Rich, P. 2007a. The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of the Kingdom Animalia. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 326 p.
Fedonkin, M. A. and Ivantsov, A. Y. 2007. Ventogyrus, a possible siphonophore-like trilobozoan coelenterate from the Vendian Sequence (late Neoproterozoic), northern Russia, p. 187194. In Vickers-Rich, P. and Komarower, P. (eds.), The Rise and Fall of the Ediacaran Biota. Geological Society of London Special Publications 286.
Fedonkin, M. A., Simonetta, A., and Ivantsov, A. Y. 2007b. New data on Kimberella, the Vendian mollusc-like organism (White Sea region, Russia): Palaeoecological and evolutionary implications, p. 157179. In Vickers-Rich, P. and Komarower, P. (eds.), The Rise and Fall of the Ediacaran Biota. Geological Society of London Special Publications 286.
Fedonkin, M. A. and Waggoner, B. M. 1997. The late Precambrian fossil Kimberella is a mollusc-like bilaterian organism. Nature, 388:868871.
Ford, T. D. 1958. Precambrian fossils from Charnwood Forest. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 31:211217.
Gehling, J. G. 1999. Microbial mats in terminal Proterozoic siliciclastics: Ediacaran death masks. Palaios, 14:4057.
Gehling, J. G., Droser, M. L., Jensen, S. R., and Runnegar, B. N. 2005. Ediacara organisms: Relating form to function, p. 4366. In Briggs, D. E. G. (ed.), Evolving Form and Function: Fossils and Development. Yale Peabody Museum Publications, New Haven.
Gehling, J. G. and Narbonne, G. M. 2007. Spindle-shaped Ediacara fossils from the Mistaken Point assemblage, Avalon Zone, Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 44:367387.
Gehling, J. G. and Rigby, J. K. 1996. Long expected sponges from the Neoproterozoic Ediacara fauna of South Australia. Journal of Paleontology, 70:185195.
Germs, G. J. B. 1968. Discovery of a new fossil in the Nama System, South West Africa. Nature, 219:5354.
Germs, G. J. B. 1972. New shelly fossils from the Nama Group, South West Africa. American Journal of Science, 272:752761.
Glaessner, M. F. 1984. The Dawn of Animal Life: A Biohistorical Study. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 244 p.
Gnilovskaya, M. B. 1971. The most ancient Vendian water plants on the Russian platform. Paleontological Journal, 3:101107.
Grazhdankin, D. 2004. Patterns of distribution in the Ediacaran biotas: Facies versus biogeography and evolution. Paleobiology, 30:203221.
Grazhdankin, D. and Gerdes, G. 2007. Ediacaran microbial colonies. Lethaia, 40:201210.
Grazhdankin, D. and Seilacher, A. 2002. Underground Vendobionta from Namibia. Palaeontology, 45:5778.
Grazhdankin, D. and Seilacher, A. 2005. A re-examination of the Nama-type Vendian organism Rangea schneiderhoehni. Geological Magazine, 142:571582.
Grazhdankin, D. V., Balthasar, U., Nagovitsin, K. E., and Kochnev, B. B. 2008. Carbonate-hosted Avalon-type fossils in arctic Siberia. Geology, 36:803806.
Grey, K. 2005. Ediacaran palynology of Australia. Memoirs of the Association of Australasian Palaeontologists, 31:1439.
Gürich, G. 1930. Die bislang ältesten Spuren von Organismen in Südafrika. International Geological Congress. South Africa, 1929 (XV), 2:670680.
Gürich, G. 1933. Die Kuibis-Fossilien der Nama-Formation von Südwestafrika. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 15:137154.
Hagadorn, J. W. and Bottjer, D. J. 1999. Restriction of a Late Neoproterozoic biotope: Suspect-microbial structures and trace fossils at the Vendian – Cambrian transition. Palaios, 14:7385.
Hofmann, H. J., O'Brien, S. J., and King, A. F. 2008. Ediacaran biota on Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland, Canada. Journal of Paleontology, 82:136.
Hua, H., Chen, Z., Yuan, X., Zhang, L., and Xiao, S. 2005. Skeletogenesis and asexual reproduction in the earliest biomineralizing animal Cloudina. Geology, 33:277280.
Ivantsov, A. Y. and Grazhdankin, D. 1997. A new representative of the Petalonamae from the upper Vendian of the Arkhangelsk Region. Paleontological Journal (English Translation), 31:116.
Ivantsov, A. Y. and Malakhovskaya, Y. E. 2002. Gigantskiye sledy vendskikh zhivotnykh. Doklady Akademii Nauk, 385:382386.
Jenkins, R. J. F. and Gehling, J. G. 1978. A review of the frond-like fossils of the Ediacara assemblage. Record of South Australia Museum, 17:347359.
Knoll, A. H., Walter, M. R., Narbonne, G. M., and Christie-Blick, N. 2006. The Ediacaran Period: a new addition to the geologic time scale. Lethaia, 39:1330.
Laflamme, M. and Narbonne, G. M. 2008. Ediacaran fronds. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 258:162179.
Laflamme, M., Narbonne, G. M., Greentree, C., and Anderson, M. M. 2007. Morphology and taphonomy of an Ediacaran frond: Charnia from the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, p. 237257. In Vickers-Rich, P. and Komarower, P. (eds.), The Rise and Fall of the Ediacaran Biota. Geological Society of London Special Publications 286.
McFadden, K. A., Huang, J., Chu, X., Jiang, G., Kaufman, A. J., Zhou, C., Yuan, X., and Xiao, S. 2008. Pulsed oxygenation and biological evolution in the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 105:3,1973,202.
McMenamin, M. A. S. 1998. The Garden of Ediacara: Discovering the First Complex Life. Columbia University Press, New York, 295 p.
Narbonne, G., Laflamme, M., Bamforth, E., Flude, L., and Gehling, J. 2008. Growth and development of early Ediacarans. The 33rd International Geological Congress, Abstract CD-ROM.
Narbonne, G. M. 2004. Modular construction of early Ediacaran complex life forms. Science, 305:1,1411,144.
Narbonne, G. M. 2005. The Ediacara Biota: Neoproterozoic origin of animals and their ecosystems. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 33:421442.
Narbonne, G. M., Saylor, B. Z., and Grotzinger, J. P. 1997. The youngest Ediacaran fossils from southern Africa. Journal of Paleontology, 71:953967.
Noffke, N. 2008. Turbulent lifestyle: Microbial mats on Earth's sandy beaches – today and 3 billion years ago. GSA Today, 18:49.
Noffke, press. The criteria for the biogenicity of microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS) in Archean and younger sandy deposits. Earth Science Reviews.
Noffke, N., Beukes, N., Bower, D., Hazen, R. M., and Swift, D. J. P. 2008. An actualistic perspective into Archean worlds – (cyano-) bacterially induced sedimentary structures in the siliciclastic Nhlazatse Section, 2.9 Ga Pongola Supergroup, South Africa. Geobiology, 6:520.
Peterson, K. J., Waggoner, B., and Hagadorn, J. W. 2003. A fungal analog for Newfoundland Ediacaran fossils? Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43:127136.
Pflug, H. D. 1966. Neue Fossilreste aus den Nama-Schichten in Südwest-Africa. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 40:1425.
Porada, H. and Bouougri, E. H. 2007. Wrinkle structures-a critical review. Earth Science Reviews, 81:199215.
Porada, H. J., Ghergut, J., and Bouougri, E. H. 2008. Kinneyia-Type Wrinkle Structures–Critical Review and Model of Formation. Palaios, 23:6577.
Qian, Y., Li, G., and Zhu, M. 2001. The Meishucunian Stage and its small shelly fossil sequence in China. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 40 (supplement):5462.
Retallack, G. J. 1994. Were the Ediacaran fossils lichens? Paleobiology, 20:523544.
Retallack, G. J. 2007. Growth, decay and burial compaction of Dickinsonia, an iconic Ediacaran fossil. Alcheringa, 31:215240.
Riding, R. 2000. Microbial carbonates: The geological record of calcified bacterial-algal mats and biofilms. Sedimentology, 47 (supplement 1):179214.
Runnegar, B. 1995. Vendobionta or Metazoa? Developments in understanding the Ediacara “fauna”. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen, 195(1–3):303318.
Schieber, J., Bose, P., Erikkson, P., Banerjee, S., Sarkar, S., Altermann, W., and Catuneanu, O. 2007. Atlas of Microbial Mat Features Preserved within the Siliciclastic Rock Record. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 324 p.
Seilacher, A. 1992. Vendobionta and Psammocorallia: lost constructions of Precambrian evolution. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 149:607613.
Seilacher, A. 1999. Biomat-related lifestyles in the Precambrian. Palaios, 14:8693.
Seilacher, A., Grazhdankin, D., and Legouta, A. 2003. Ediacaran biota: The dawn of animal life in the shadow of giant protists. Paleontological Research, 7:4354.
Sperling, E. A., Pisani, D., and Peterson, K. J. 2007. Poriferan paraphyly and its implications for Precambrian palaeobiology, p. 355368. In Vickers-Rich, P. and Komarower, P. (eds.), The Rise and Fall of the Ediacaran Biota. Geological Society of London Special Publications 286.
Sprigg, R. C. 1947. Early Cambrian (?) jellyfishes from the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Transaction of the Royal Society of South Australia, 71:212224.
Steiner, M., Mehl, D., Reitner, J., and Erdtmann, B.-D. 1993. Oldest entirely preserved sponges and other fossils from the lowermost Cambrian and a new facies reconstruction of the Yangtze Platform (China). Berliner Geowissenschaftliche Abhandlungen (E), 9:293329.
Sun, W. 1986. Late Precambrian pennatulids (sea pens) from the eastern Yangtze Gorge, China: Paracharnia gen. nov. Precambrian Research, 31:361375.
Weber, B., Steiner, M., and Zhu, M. Y. 2007. Precambrian-Cambrian trace fossils from the Yangtze Platform (South China) and the early evolution of bilaterian lifestyles. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 254:328349.
Xiao, S. and Knoll, A. H. 1999. Fossil preservation in the Neoproterozoic Doushantuo phosphorite Lagerstätte, South China. Lethaia, 32:219240.
Xiao, S. and Laflamme, M. 2009. On the eve of animal radiation: Phylogeny, ecology and evolution of the Ediacara biota. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24:3140.
Xiao, S., Shen, B., Zhou, C., Xie, G., and Yuan, X. 2005. A uniquely preserved Ediacaran fossil with direct evidence for a quilted bodyplan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 102:10,22710,232.
Xiao, S., Yuan, X., Steiner, M., and Knoll, A. H. 2002. Macroscopic carbonaceous compressions in a terminal Proterozoic shale: A systematic reassessment of the Miaohe biota, South China. Journal of Paleontology, 76:347376.
Yao, J., Xiao, S., Yin, L., Li, G., and Yuan, X. 2005. Basal Cambrian microfossils from the Yurtus and Xishanblaq formations (Tarim, northwest China): Systematic revision and biostratigraphic correlation of Micrhystridium-like acritarchs from China. Palaeontology, 48:687708.
Yin, L., Zhu, M., Knoll, A. H., Yuan, X., Zhang, J., and Hu, J. 2007. Doushantuo embryos preserved inside diapause egg cysts. Nature, 446:661663.
Zhang, Y., Yin, L., Xiao, S., and Knoll, A. H. 1998. Permineralized fossils from the terminal Proterozoic Doushantuo Formation, South China. Journal of Paleontology, 72 (supplement to No. 4):152.
Zhao, Z., Xing, Y., Ding, Q., Liu, G., Zhao, Y., Zhang, S., Meng, X., Yin, C., Ning, B., and Han, P. 1988. The Sinian System of Hubei. China University of Geosciences Press, Wuhan, 205 p.
Zhou, C., Xie, G., McFadden, K., Xiao, S., and Yuan, X. 2007. The diversification and extinction of Doushantuo-Pertatataka acritarchs in South China: Causes and biostratigraphic significance. Geological Journal, 42:229262.
Zhu, M., Gehling, J. G., Xiao, S., Zhao, Y.-L., and Droser, M. 2008. Eight-armed Ediacara fossil preserved in contrasting taphonomic windows from China and Australia. Geology, 36:867870.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Yangtziramulus zhangi new genus and species, a carbonate-hosted macrofossil from the Ediacaran Dengying Formation in the Yangtze Gorges area, South China

  • Bing Shen (a1), Shuhai Xiao (a1), Chuanming Zhou (a2) and Xunlai Yuan (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.