The Ediacaran Period at the end of the Neoproterozoic Era is the Period that preceded the Cambrian, when most major animal phyla appeared in the fossil record. What role did the biogeochemistry of the Ediacaran play in the emergence of animals? Carbon isotope evidence from hydrocarbons suggests that the ecology of the Ediacaran was organized in a manner that differed from the Phanerozoic.
We are investigating these changes using the hydrogen isotopic compositions of hydrocarbons derived from Ediacaran ecosystems. The approach is feasible only when hydrocarbons are exceptionally well preserved, and have never been heated above about 60 °C. Such material can be recovered from the East European platform, from which we are currently undertaking a detailed study of biogeochemical changes across the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary.