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Early sponges and toxic protists: possible sources of cryostane, an age diagnostic biomarker antedating Sturtian Snowball Earth
Australian Natl Univ, Res Sch Earth Sci, Canberra, ACT, Australia..
Australian Natl Univ, Res Sch Earth Sci, Canberra, ACT, Australia.;Geosci Australia, GPO BOX 378, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia..
Australian Natl Univ, Res Sch Earth Sci, Canberra, ACT, Australia.;Ecole Normale Super Lyon, Dept Sci Terre, 46 Allee Italie, F-69007 Lyon, France..
Univ Illinois, Dept Earth & Environm Sci, Chicago, IL USA..
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2016 (English)In: Geobiology, ISSN 1472-4677, E-ISSN 1472-4669, Vol. 14, no 2, 129-149 p.Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

The period 800-717million years (Ma) ago, in the lead-up to the Sturtian Snowball glaciation, saw an increase in the diversity of eukaryotic microfossils. To afford an independent and complementary view of this evolutionary period, this study presents the distribution of eukaryotic biomarkers from three pre-Sturtian successions across the supercontinent Rodinia: the ca. 780Ma Kanpa Formation of the Western Australian Officer Basin, the ca. 800-740Ma Visingso Group of Sweden, and the 740Ma Chuar Group in Arizona, USA. The distribution of eukaryotic steranes is remarkably similar in the three successions but distinct from all other known younger and older sterane assemblages. Cholestane was the only conventional structure, while indigenous steranes alkylated in position C-24, such as ergostane, stigmastane, dinosterane and isopropylcholestane, and n-propylcholestane, were not observed. This sterane distribution appears to be age diagnostic for the pre-Sturtian Neoproterozoic. It attests to the distinct evolutionary state of pre-Snowball eukaryotes, pointing to a taxonomic disparity that was still lower than in the Ediacaran (635-541Ma). All three basins also show the presence of a new C-28 sterane that was tentatively identified as 26-methylcholestane, here named cryostane. The only known extant organisms that can methylate sterols in the 26-position are demosponges. This assignment is plausible as molecular clocks place the appearance of the earliest animals into the pre-Sturtian Neoproterozoic. The unusual 26-methylsterol may have protected sponges, but also other eukaryotes, against their own membranolytic toxins. Some protists release lytic toxins to deter predators and kill eukaryotic prey. As conventional membrane sterols can be the site of attack for these toxins, sterols with unusual side-chain modification protect the cell. This interpretation of cryostane supports fossil evidence of predation in the Chuar Group and promotes hypotheses about the proliferation of eukaryophagy in the lead-up to the Cryogenian.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 14, no 2, 129-149 p.
National Category
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281480DOI: 10.1111/gbi.12165ISI: 000370181800002PubMedID: 26507690OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-281480DiVA: diva2:915374
Australian Research Council, DP1095247
Available from: 2016-03-30 Created: 2016-03-24 Last updated: 2016-03-30Bibliographically approved

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