Nuclei and nucleoli in embryo-like fossils from the Ediacaran Weng’an Biota

Zongjun Yin*, John Cunningham, Kelly Vargas, Stefan Bengtson, Maoyan Zhu, Philip Donoghue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
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The embryo-like microfossils from the Ediacaran Weng’an Biota (ca. 609 million years old) are among the oldest plausible claims of animals in the fossil record. Fossilization frequently extends beyond the cellular, to preserve subcellular structures including contentious Large Intracellular Structures (LISs) that have been alternately interpreted as eukaryote nuclei or organelles, degraded remains, or abiological structures. Here we present new data on the structure, morphology, and development of the LISs in these embryo-like fossils, based on Synchrotron Radiation X-ray Tomographic Microscopy (SRXTM) and quantitative computed tomographic analysis. All the lines of evidence, including consistency in the number, shape, position, and relative size (LIS-to-cytoplasm ratio) of the LISs, as well as their occurrence within preserved cytoplasm, support their interpretation as cell nuclei. Our results allow us to reject the view that nuclei cannot be preserved in early eukaryote fossils, offering new potential for interpreting the fossil record of early eukaryote evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-151
Number of pages7
JournalPrecambrian Research
Early online date8 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Fossil embryo
  • Doushantuo
  • Animal
  • Evolution
  • Ediacaran


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