The Ediacara biota (~575–541 million years ago) mark the emergence of large, complex organisms in the palaeontological record, preluding the radiation of modern animal phyla. However, their phylogenetic relationships, even at the domain level, remain controversial. We report the discovery of molecular fossils from organically preserved specimens of Beltanelliformis, demonstrating that they represent large spherical colonies of cyanobacteria. The conservation of molecular remains in organically preserved Ediacaran organisms opens a new path for unravelling the natures of the Ediacara biota.
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This study was funded by the Australian Research Council grants DP160100607 and DP170100556 (to J.J.B.). I.B. gratefully acknowledges an Australian Research Council Research Training Program scholarship. The authors are grateful to E. Luzhnaya, A. Nagovitsyn, M. Luzhnaya, P. Rychkov and V. Rychkov for help in the field, L. Zaytseva and E. Luzhnaya for scanning electron microscope imaging of organic matter, and J. K. Volkman, S. Xiao, N. J. Butterfield and R. E. Summons for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.