Postgraduate Profiles

Zhongwu Lan

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Thesis: Ediacaran biota and paleoenvironments from the Kimberley region, northwestern Australia

Precambrian life is a subject that attracts considerable attention of scientists from earth sciences, and our knowledge of biotic history has increased markedly with the increasing discovery and documentation of fossils. Ediacaran faunas have been described from many localities around the world, among which is South Australia where the Ediacaran biota was first recorded. By contrast, few examples have been described from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The only Ediacara-type fossil reported is Protoniobia wadea in the Lower Cambrian Flags, Mount John Osmond Range, Western Australia. The Neoproterozoic rocks of South Australia have been correlated with those in the Kimberley of WA and Central Australia. Therefore, it is highly possible that more new fossils will be found in contemporaneous strata from Western Australia. The objective of this project is to find more Ediacaran fossils in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia to interpret the evolution and evolutionary mechanisms of Ediacaran biota.

Why my research is important

The Ediacaran biota is the first complex multicellular organisms without hard shells, and of critical importance for our understanding of the evolution of early organisms, especially metazoans. The Ediacaran biota is extraordinary organisms comprising discs, fronds, and segmented morphologies, found in Flinders Range, South Australia, Avalon Zone of Newfoundland and Nama Group in Namibia, and named for the locality in the Ediacara Hills, the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, and the name has also since been used for the geological time period at the end of the Precambrian from 630-542 million years ago. The third significant aspect of the Ediacaran biota is that it appeared immediately after the prolonged period of global glaciations towards the end of the Precambrian. The evolutionary mechanisms of life and interactions between evolution and environmental/climatic changes have long remained enigmatic.

Funding

Aug 2007

Feb 2011

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