Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago

Journal article

Publication Details

Author(s): El Albani A, Bengtson S, Canfield DE, Bekker A, Macchiarelli R, Mazurier A, Hammarlund EU, Boulvais P, Dupuy JJ, Fontaine C, Fürsich F, Gauthier-Lafaye F, Janvier P, Javaux E, Ossa FO, Pierson-Wickmann AC, Riboulleau A, Sardini P, Vachard D, Whitehouse M, Meunier A
Journal: Nature
Publication year: 2010
Volume: 466
Pages range: 100-104
ISSN: 0028-0836
Language: English


The evidence for macroscopic life during the Palaeoproterozoic era (2.5-1.6 Gyr ago) is controversial. Except for the nearly 2-Gyr-old coil-shaped fossil Grypania spiralis, which may have been eukaryotic, evidence for morphological and taxonomic biodiversification of macroorganisms only occurs towards the beginning of the Mesoproterozoic era (1.6-1.0 Gyr). Here we report the discovery of centimetre-sized structures from the 2.1-Gyr-old black shales of the Palaeoproterozoic Francevillian B Formation in Gabon, which we interpret as highly organized and spatially discrete populations of colonial organisms. The structures are up to 12 cm in size and have characteristic shapes, with a simple but distinct ground pattern of flexible sheets and, usually, a permeating radial fabric. Geochemical analyses suggest that the sediments were deposited under an oxygenated water column. Carbon and sulphur isotopic data indicate that the structures were distinct biogenic objects, fossilized by pyritization early in the formation of the rock. The growth patterns deduced from the fossil morphologies suggest that the organisms showed cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated responses, as is commonly associated with multicellular organization. The Gabon fossils, occurring after the 2.45-2.32-Gyr increase in atmospheric oxygen concentration, may be seen as ancient representatives of multicellular life, which expanded so rapidly 1.5 Gyr later, in the Cambrian explosion. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Fürsich, Franz Prof. Dr.
Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät

External institutions with authors

Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM)
ERM POITIERS (Société Etudes Recherches Matériaux)
LILLE 1 University - Science and Technology
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
National Center for Scientific Research / Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)
Swedish Museum of Natural History
Université de Poitiers
Université de Rennes 1 / University of Rennes 1
University of Liège (ULg) / Université de Liège
University of Manitoba
University of Southern Denmark / Syddansk Universitet

How to cite

El Albani, A., Bengtson, S., Canfield, D.E., Bekker, A., Macchiarelli, R., Mazurier, A.,... Meunier, A. (2010). Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago. Nature, 466, 100-104.

El Albani, Abderrazak, et al. "Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago." Nature 466 (2010): 100-104.


Last updated on 2018-10-08 at 22:23