The paper, recently published in Nature Communications, was based on the study of an area in eastern Newfoundland, Canada, which contains a continuous record of strata formed during the transition between the Cambrian and earlier Ediacaran periods.
Buatois' research is shows the disappearance of the Ediacara biota representing an abrupt evolutionary event that corresponded with the appearance of modern animals, rather than fading away due to the gradual elimination of conditions appropriate for Ediacaran preservation.
The Cambrian period was a time of dramatic biological and sedimentary changes that ultimately led to the development of our modern world. Prior to the Cambrian, most marine sediment was covered by microbial mats that were host for the bizarre, soft-bodied creatures of the Ediacara biota.
One prevalent hypothesis argues that this fauna did not actually go extinct at the beginning of the Cambrian, but instead conditions for preserving the delicate impressions of Ediacaran soft-bodied organisms disappeared with the arrival of burrowing in the Cambrian, and the loss of elements that were instrumental in their preservation as fossils.
"Discoveries like this are so important because they are at the core of our understanding of early evolutionary breakthroughs," said Buatois.
The paper titled "Ediacaran matground ecology persisted into the earliest Cambrian" involved a multinational team from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), Queen's University (Canada), the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro (Argentina) and the Colorado College (USA).
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University of Saskatchewan