Lenticular, and commonly flanged, microfossils in 3.0–3.4 Ga sedimentary deposits in Western Australia and South Africa are unusually large (20–80 μm across), robust, and widespread in space and time. To gain insight into the ecology of these organisms, we performed simulations of fluid dynamics of virtual cells mimicking lenticular forms of variable sizes, oblateness, flange presence, and flange thickness. Results demonstrate that (a) the flange reduces sedimentation velocity, (b) this flange function works more effectively in larger cells, and (c) modest oblateness lowers sedimentation rate. These observations support interpretations that the lenticular microbes were planktonic—a lifestyle that could have been advantageous in an early Earth harsh environment including violent volcanic activities, repeated asteroid impacts, and relatively high UV-radiation. Although the robustness of these organisms could have provided additional protection on the early Earth, this architecture may have impeded a planktonic lifestyle by increasing cell density. However, our data suggest that this disadvantage could have been compensated by enlargement of cell volume, which could have enhanced the ability of the flange to slow sedimentation rate, especially if coupled with vacuolation. The results of this simulation study may help to explain the unique morphology and unusually large size of these Archean microfossils.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Environmental Science(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)