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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor David Harper

Harper D.A.T., Hammarlund E.U., Topper T.P., Nielsen A.T., Rasmussen J.A., Park T-Y.S. & Smith M.P. (2019). The Sirius Passet Lagerstätte of North Greenland: a remote window on the Cambrian Explosion. Journal of the Geological Society 17(6): 1023-1037.

Author(s) from Durham


The lower Cambrian Lagerstätte of Sirius Passet, Nansen Land, North Greenland, is one of the oldest of the Phanerozoic, exceptionally preserved biotas. The Lagerstätte evidences the escalation of numbers of new body plans and life modes that formed the basis for a modern, functionally tiered ecosystem. The fauna is dominated by predators – infaunal, benthic and pelagic – and the presence of abundant nekton, including large sweep-net feeders, suggests an ecosystem rich in nutrients. Recent discoveries have helped reconstruct digestive systems and their contents; muscle fibres; and visual and nervous systems, for a number of taxa. New collections have confirmed the complex combination of taphonomic pathways associated with the biota and its potentially substantial biodiversity. These complex animal-based communities within the Buen Formation were associated with microbial matgrounds, now preserved in black mudstones deposited below storm-wave base that provide insight to the shift from late Neoproterozoic (Ediacaran) to Cambrian substrates and communities. Moreover, the encasing sediment holds important data on the palaeoenvironment and the water-column chemistry, suggesting that these animal-based communities developed in conditions with very low oxygen concentrations.