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A microfossil resembling Merismopedia (Cyanobacteria) from the 410-million-yr-old Rhynie and Windyfield cherts – Rhyniococcus uniformis revisited

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Rhyniococcus uniformis from the Lower Devonian Rhynie and Windyfield cherts, Scotland, occurs in the form of unistratose, plate-like colonies comprised of (8–)16–>250 cell units (3–5 μm in diameter) situated in rows more or less perpendicular to one another; quadruplets and 16-cell unit clusters are often recognizable as modular units. The fossil resembles extant cyanobacteria in the genus Merismopedia (Synechococcales), but material sufficient for a thorough assessment of R. uniformis has hitherto not been available. Newly discovered specimens provide detailed insights into the morphology and colony organization of R. uniformis, together with specific developmental details, and thus now permit a precise characterization of this fossil that underpins the structural similarity to Merismopedia. Merismopedia-like life forms are exceedingly rare as fossils, likely because the colonies are readily fragmented and destroyed. The new specimens of R. uniformis all occur within small inclusions in silicified substrate, suggesting that the substrate served as a microscopic conservation trap by shielding the enclosed colonies from destructive mechanical forces such as water movement.
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Keywords: COLONY; DEVONIAN; EPS ENVELOPE; PLATE-LIKE; PRESERVATION; PRIMARY PRODUCER; SYNECHOCOCCALES

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

This article was made available online on October 12, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "A microfossil resembling Merismopedia (Cyanobacteria) from the 410-million-yr-old Rhynie and Windyfield cherts – Rhyniococcus uniformis revisited".

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  • Nova Hedwigia is an international journal publishing original, peer-reviewed papers on current issues of taxonomy, morphology, ultrastructure and ecology of all groups of cryptogamic plants, including cyanophytes/cyanobacteria and fungi. The half-tone plates in Nova Hedwigia are known for their high quality, which makes them especially suitable for the reproduction of photomicrographs and scanning and transmission electron micrographs.
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