Metamorphism obscures primary taphonomic pathways in the early Cambrian Sirius Passet Lagerstätte, North Greenland

Nielsen, Morten Lunde; Lee, Mirinae; Ng, Hong Chin; Rushton, Jeremy C. ORCID:; Hendry, Katharine R.; Kihm, Ji-Hoon; Nielsen, Arne T.; Park, Tae-Yoon S.; Vinther, Jakob; Wilby, Philip R.. 2022 Metamorphism obscures primary taphonomic pathways in the early Cambrian Sirius Passet Lagerstätte, North Greenland. Geology, 50 (1). 4-9.

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Correct interpretation of soft-bodied fossils relies on a thorough understanding of their taphonomy. While the focus has often been on the primary roles of decay and early diagenesis, the impacts of deeper burial and metamorphism on fossil preservation are less well understood. We document a sequence of late-stage mineral replacements in panarthropod fossils from the Sirius Passet Lagerstätte (North Greenland), an important early Cambrian Burgess Shale–type (BST) biota. Muscle and gut diverticula were initially stabilized by early diagenetic apatite, prior to being pervasively replaced by quartz and then subordinate chlorite, muscovite, and chloritoid during very low- to low-grade metamorphism. Each new mineral replicates the soft tissues with different precision and occurs in particular anatomical regions, imposing strong biases on the biological information retained. Muscovite and chloritoid largely obliterate the tissues’ original detail, suggesting that aluminum-rich protoliths may have least potential for conserving mineralized soft tissues in metamorphism. Overall, the fossils exhibit a marked shift toward mineralogical equilibration with the matrix, obscuring primary taphonomic modes. Sequential replacement of the phosphatized soft tissues released phosphorus to form new accessory monazite (and apatite and xenotime), whose presence in other BST biotas might signal the prior, more widespread, occurrence of this primary mode of preservation. Our results provide critical context for interpreting the Sirius Passet biota and for identifying late-stage overprints in other biotas.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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ISSN: 0091-7613
Date made live: 21 Dec 2021 12:16 +0 (UTC)

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