Skip to main content Accessibility help

First finds of problematic Ediacaran fossil Gaojiashania in Siberia and its origin



We describe the first occurrence of the problematic fossil Gaojiashania outside China, in the Ediacaran Yudoma Group of the Siberian Platform. In both areas, Gaojiashania characterizes the lower upper Ediacaran strata and precedes the appearance of Cloudina and other skeletal fossils, which highlights its significance for the Ediacaran subdivision and correlation. Features of this fossil such as indeterminate length, the absence of a distinct growth pattern, and self-avoiding behaviour indicate its trace fossil origin but do not necessarily imply metazoan affinities for its producers. Several organisms including stem-group social amoebozoans and unicellular protists may have been Proterozoic trace fossil producers.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence:


Hide All
Bengtson, S., Rasmussen, B. & Krapez, B. 2007. The Paleoproterozoic megascopic Stirling biota. Paleobiology 33, 351–81.
Chen, Z., Sun, W.-G. & Hua, H. 2002. Preservation and morphological interpretation of Late Sinian Gaojiashania from southern Shaanxi. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica 41, 448–54 (in Chinese with English abstract).
Ding, L.-F., Zhang, L., Li, Y. & Dong, J. 1992. The Study of the Late Sinian–Early Cambrian Biotas from the Northern Margin of Yangtze Platform. Beijing: Scientific and Technical Documents Publishing House, 135 pp. (in Chinese with English abstract).
Dong, L., Xiao, S., Shen, B. & Zhou, C. 2008. Silicified Horodyskia and Palaeopascichnus from Upper Ediacaran cherts in South China: Tentative phylogenetic interpretation and implications for evolutionary stasis. Journal of the Geological Society, London 165, 367–78.
Eichinger, L. & 96 others. 2005. The genome of the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Nature 435, 4357.
Fedonkin, M. A. 1985. Palaeoichnology of the Vendian Metazoa. In The Vendian System. Historical–Geological and Palaeontological Grounds, vol. 1: Paleontology (eds Sokolov, B. S. & Ivanovskiy, B. A.), pp. 112–7. Moscow: Nauka (English translation: The Vendian System, vol. 1: Paleontology. Berlin: Springer, 1990).
Fedonkin, M. A. & Yochelson, E. L. 2002. Middle Proterozoic (1.5 Ga) Horodyskia moniliformis Yochelson and Fedonkin, the oldest known tissue-grade colonial eucaryote. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 94, 129.
Fedonkin, M. A., Gehling, J. G., Grey, K., Narbonne, G. & Vickers-Rich, P. 2007. The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of the Kingdom Animalia. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 327 pp.
Grey, K., Williams, I. R., Martin, D. M., Fedonkin, M. A. & Gehling, J. G. 2002. New occurrence of ‘string of beads’ in the Bangemall Supergroup: a potential biostratigraphic marker horizon. Western Australian Geological Survey Annual Review 2000, 6973.
Gross, J. D. 1994. Developmental decisions in Dictyostelium discoideum. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 58, 330–51.
Haines, P. W. 2000. Problematic fossils in the late Neoproterozoic Wonoka Formation, South Australia. Precambrian Research 100, 97108.
Han, Z. & Firtel, R. A. 1998. The homeobox-containing gene Wariai regulates anerior–posterior patterning and cell-type homeostasis in Dictyostelium. Development 125, 313–25.
Hua, H., Chen, Z. & Zhang, L.Y. 2004. Shaanxilithes from Taozichong Formation of Guizhou Province and its significance. Journal of Stratigraphy 28, 265–9 (in Chinese with English abstract).
Hua, H., Zhang, L.-Y., Zhang, Z.-F. & Wang, J.-P. 2000. Fossil evidences of latest Neoproterozoic Gaojiashan biota and their characteristics. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica 39, 507–15 (in Chinese with English abstract).
Jensen, S. 2003. The Proterozoic and earliest Cambrian trace fossil record; patterns, problems and perspectives. Integrative and Comparative Biology 43, 219–28.
Kay, R. R. 1997. Dictyostelium development: Lower STATs. Current Biology 7, R7235.
Kuzdzal-Fick, J. J., Foster, K. R., Queller, D. C. & Strassmann, J. E. 2007. Exploiting new terrain: an advantage to sociality in the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. Behavioral Ecology 18, 433–7.
Lin, S., Zhang, Y. & Zhang, S. 1986. Body and trace fossils of Metazoa and algal macrofossils from the Upper Sinian Gaojiashan Formation in southern Shaanxi. Shaanxi Dizhi 4, 917 (in Chinese with English abstract).
Matz, M. V., Frank, T. M., Marshall, N. J., Widder, E. A. & Johnsen, S. 2008. Giant deep-sea protist produces bilaterian-like traces. Current Biology 18, 1849–54.
Nikolaev, S. I., Berney, C., Fahrni, J. F., Bolivar, I., Polet, S., Mylnikov, A. P., Aleshin, V. V., Petrov, N. B. & Pawlowski, J. 2004. The twilight of Heliozoa and rise of Rhizaria, an emerging supergroup of amoeboid eukaryotes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101, 8066–71.
Schopf, J. W. & Klein, C. (eds) 1992. The Proterozoic Biosphere: A Multidisciplinary Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1348 pp.
Seilacher, A., Grazhdankin, D. & Legouta, A. 2003. Ediacaran biota: The dawn of animal life in the shadow of giant protists. Paleontological Research 7, 4354.
Semikhatov, M. A., Komar, V. A. & Serebryakov, S. N. 1970. The Yudoma Complex in the stratotype area. Trudy Geologicheskogo instituta Akademii nauk SSSR 210, 1207 (in Russian).
Semikhatov, M. A., Ovchinnikova, G. V., Gorokhov, I. M., Kuznetsov, A. B., Kaurova, O. K. & Petrov, P. Yu. 2003. Pb–Pb isochronous age and Sr-isotope characteristics of the upper Yudoma carbonate strata (Vendian of the Yudoma-Maya Depression, Eastern Siberia). Doklady Rossiyskoy akademii nauk 393, 83–7 (in Russian).
Shen, B., Xiao, S., Dong, L., Zhou, C. & Liu, J. 2007. Problematic macrofossils from Ediacaran successions in the North China and Chaidam blocks: Implications for their evolutionary roots and biostratigraphic significance. Journal of Paleontology 81, 1396–411.
Sternfeld, J. & O'Mara, R. 2005. Aerial migration of the Dictyostelium slug. Development, Growth & Differentiation 47, 4958.
Wallraff, E. & Wallraff, H. G. 1997. Migrating and bidirectional phototaxis in Dictyostelium discoideum slugs lacking the action cross-linking 120 kDa gelation factor. Journal of Experimental Biology 200, 3213–20.
Weber, B., Steiner, M. & Zhu, M.-Y. 2007. Precambrian–Cambrian trace fossils from the Yangtze Platform (South China) and the early evolution of bilaterian lifestyles. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 254, 328–49.
Xing, Y., Ding, Q., Luo, H., He, T., Wang, Y. et al. 1984. The Sinian–Cambrian boundary of China. Bulletin of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences 10 (1983), Special Issue, 1–262 (in Chinese with abridged English version).
Yang, S. & Zhang, Z. 1985. The Sinian trace fossils from Zhengmuguan Formation of Helashan Mountain, Ningxia. Earth Sciences–Journal of Wuhan College of Geology 10, 928 (in Chinese with English abstract).
Yochelson, E. L. & Fedonkin, M. A. 2000. A new tissue-grade organism 1.5 billion years old from Montana. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 113, 843–7.
Zhang, L.-Y. 1986. A discovery and preliminary study of the Late Sinian stage Gaojiashan Biota from Ningqiang County, Shaanxi. Bulletin of the Xi'an Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences 13, 6788 (in Chinese with English abstract).



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed