Research ArticleECOLOGY

Extensive marine anoxia during the terminal Ediacaran Period

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Science Advances  20 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaan8983
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aan8983


The terminal Ediacaran Period witnessed the decline of the Ediacara biota (which may have included many stem-group animals). To test whether oceanic anoxia might have played a role in this evolutionary event, we measured U isotope compositions (δ238U) in sedimentary carbonates from the Dengying Formation of South China to obtain new constraints on the extent of global redox change during the terminal Ediacaran. We found the most negative carbonate δ238U values yet reported (−0.95 per mil), which were reproduced in two widely spaced coeval sections spanning the terminal Ediacaran Period (551 to 541 million years ago). Mass balance modeling indicates an episode of extensive oceanic anoxia, during which anoxia covered >21% of the seafloor and most U entering the oceans was removed into sediments below anoxic waters. The results suggest that an expansion of oceanic anoxia and temporal-spatial redox heterogeneity, independent of other environmental and ecological factors, may have contributed to the decline of the Ediacara biota and may have also stimulated animal motility.

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