Tubular microfossils from the Ediacaran Weng’an Biota (Doushantuo Formation, South China) are not early animals

Sun Wei-Chen, Zongjun Yin, Philip Donoghue, Liu Pengju, Shang Xiao-Dong, Maoyan Zhu

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

2 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


The early Ediacaran Weng’an Biota (ca. 609 Ma) of the Doushantuo Formation (Guizhou Province, China) encompasses an abundant and exquisitely preserved assemblage of phosphatic microfossils that have provided unique insight into the origin and early evolution of multicellular eukaryotes. However, the affinities of these early organisms are far from certain, including the tubular microfossils Crassitubulus, Quadratitubus, Ramitubulus, and Sinocyclocylcicus. These taxa have been widely accepted as stem-cnidarians or, alternatively, interpreted as filamentous cyanobacteria, or multicellular algae. We use high-resolution X-ray tomographic microscopy to analyse the structure and development of the four taxa. Our data and analysis allow us to conclude that these four taxa were not biomineralized. Crassitubulus, Quadratitubus, and Sinocyclocylcicus, may be grouped on the basis that they exhibit alternating complete and incomplete cross walls, and bipolar growth; which makes them favourably comparable to filamentous cyanobacteria. In contrast, Ramitubulus exhibits only complete cross walls, unipolar growth and dichotomous branching. These features are difficult to reconcile with a cyanobacterial interpretation. They are, instead, more indicative of multicellular algae-like Cambrian Epiphyton. Thus, the Weng’an tubular microfossils constitute a disparate assemblage of cyanobacteria and algae, but none represents early Ediacaran animals.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Early online date2 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2019


  • Ediacaran
  • Doushantuo Formation
  • Weng’an Biota
  • tubular microfossils
  • microtomography

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