20 Oct 2022
20 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

The Volyn biota (Ukraine) – 1.5 Ga old (micro)fossils in 3D-preservation, a spotlight on the ‘boring billion’

Gerhard Franz1, Vladimir Khomenko2, Peter Lyckberg3, Vsevolod Chournousenko4, Ulrich Struck5, Ulrich Gernert6, and Jörg Nissen6 Gerhard Franz et al.
  • 1Institut für Angewandte Geowissenschaften, Technische Universität Berlin, D-10587 Berlin, Germany
  • 2M.P. Semenenko Institute of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Ore Formation, The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, 34, Palladina av., Kyiv, 03142, Ukraine
  • 3Luxembourg National Museum of Natural History, 25 Rue Münster, 2160 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
  • 4Volyn Quartz Samotsvety Company, Khoroshiv (Volodarsk-Volynski), Ukraine
  • 5Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Invalidenstraße 43, Berlin, D-10115, Germany
  • 6Zentraleinrichtung Elektronenmikroskopie, Technische Universität Berlin, D-10623 Berlin, Germany

Abstract. The Volyn biota, fossilized organisms with a minimum age of 1.5 Ga, were found in cavities in granitic pegmatites from the Korosten pluton, NW Ukrainian shield. Fossilization was due to influx of hydrothermal fluorine-rich waters, which silicified the outermost part of the organisms, thus preserving the 3D morphology. Details of the morphology (investigated by scanning electron microscopy) show that the majority of the specimens is filamentous, of a large variety with diameters ranging from ~10 µm to ~200 µm, thin filaments with typical branching, thick filaments with ball-shaped outgrowths and dented surface. Filaments can be straight or conical, curvilinear or strongly curved, up to mm in length, some with a central channel. Some filaments show indications for segmentation, are grown as sessile organisms onto substrate; others show both intact ends, indicating growth in soft medium or floating in water. Objects with flaky morphology and agglutinating filaments are interpreted as fossil biofilms. Other objects are hollow and show a large variety of forms; spherical objects are scarce. Infrared spectroscopy indicates the presence of chitosan in one filament, electron microprobe analysis of nm-sized inclusions in filaments identified the presence of Bi(Te,S) minerals, and both observations are compatible with the interpretation of filaments as fungi-like organisms. Stable C- and N-isotope data of bulk samples are in the range of -31 to -47 ‰ δ13C/12C, and of +3 to +10 ‰ δ15N/14N, indicating possible methanogenic bacteria as part of the subsurface micro-ecosystem. The Volyn biota show that at 1.5 Ga fungi-like organisms lived in the continental deep biosphere, where complex forms of life existed, well above the microscopic level.

Gerhard Franz et al.

Status: open (until 01 Dec 2022)

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Gerhard Franz et al.


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Short summary
This research describes the occurrence of Precambrian fossils, with an exceptionally well preserved morphology in 3D. These microfossils reach a size of mm (possibly up to cm) and thus indicate the presence of multicellular organisms. Furthermore, these fossils lived in a depth of several hundred meters and thus provide good evidence for a continental the deep biosphere, from a time generally considered as the 'boring billion'.