Check out this new publication in Nature Geosciences by Mariotti, G., Pruss, S. B., Perron, J. T., & Bosak, T.
Abstract: Wrinkle structures on sandy bed surfaces were present in some of the earliest sedimentary environments, but are rare in modern environments. These enigmatic millimetre- to centimetre-scale ridges or pits are particularly common in sediments that harbour trace fossils and imprints of early animals, and appeared in the aftermath of some large mass extinctions. Wrinkle structures have been interpreted as possible remnants of microbial mats, but the formation mechanism and associated palaeoenvironmental and palaeoecological implications of these structures remain debated. Here we show that microbial aggregates can form wrinkle structures on a bed of bare sand in wave tank experiments. Waves with a small orbital amplitude at the bed surface do not move sand grains directly. However, they move millimetre-size, light microbial fragments and thereby produce linear sand ridges and rounded scour pits at the wavelengths observed in nature within hours. We conclude that wrinkle structures are morphological biosignatures that form at the sediment–water interface in wave-dominated environments, and not beneath microbial mats as previously thought. During early animal evolution, grazing by eukaryotic organisms may have temporarily increased the abundance of microbial fragments and thus the production of wrinkle structures.