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Keywords:

  • Continental;
  • cyanobacteria;
  • fluvial;
  • macrofossils;
  • multi-trichomous;
  • pyrite;
  • Silurian

A compression macrofossil with structure consisting of mineral-replaced filaments embedded in an amorphous carbonaceous matrix is described as a macrophytic cyanobacterial colony from continental assemblages of the Early Silurian (Llandovery) Passage Creek biota, in the lower Massanutten Sandstone (Virginia, USA). Filaments are predominantly multiseriate and consist of spheroidal crystalline aggregates representing early pyrite (subsequently replaced by iron hydroxides) precipitated preferentially inside cells. Interpretation of the fossils as cyanobacteria is based on close similarities to modern organisms in terms of overall morphology and production of copious extracellular investments, filament and cell sizes, and continental epigeal (freshwater or terrestrial) habitat. This interpretation incorporates data on cyanobacterial taphonomy and mechanisms of diagenetic mineral precipitation. These fossils are part of the oldest macrofossil assemblages documenting well-developed and diverse communities on continents. They provide the earliest direct evidence for cyanobacteria in strictly continental habitats, corroborating the commonly held but poorly documented view that cyanobacteria were among the initial colonizers of continents.