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Keywords:

  • Proterozoic;
  • phytoplankton;
  • acritarchs;
  • algae;
  • microfossils;
  • phylogeny

Abstract:  Morphological and reproductive features and cell wall ultrastructure and biochemistry of Proterozoic acritarchs are used to determine their affinity to modern algae. The first appearance datum of these microbiota is traced to infer a minimum age of the divergence of the algal classes to which they may belong. The chronological appearance of microfossils that represent phycoma-like and zygotic cysts and vegetative cells and/or aplanospores, respectively, interpreted as prasinophyceaen and chlorophyceaen microalgae is related to the Viridiplantae phylogeny. An inferred minimum age of the Chlorophyte origin is before c. 1800 Ma, the Prasinophyceae at c. 1650 Ma and the Chlorophyceae at c. 1450 Ma. These divergence times differ from molecular clock estimates, and the palaeontological evidence suggests that they are older.