, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 75-94

Recognizing and Interpreting the Fossils of Early Eukaryotes

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Abstract

Using molecular sequence data, biologists cangenerate hypotheses of protistan phylogeny and divergence times. Fossils, however, provide our only direct constraints on the timingand environmental context of early eukaryotic diversification. Forthis reason, recognition of eukaryotic fossils in Proterozoic rocksis key to the integration of geological and comparative biologicalperspectives on protistan evolution. Microfossils preserved in shales of the ca. 1500 Ma Roper Group, northern Australia, display characters that ally them to the Eucarya, but, at present, attribution to any particular protistan clade is uncertain. Continuing research on wall ultrastructure and microchemistry promises new insights into the nature and systematic relationshipsof early eukaryotic fossils.