The siliciclastic lacustrine rocks of the ~ 1000 Ma Diabaig Formation, northwest Scotland, contain a remarkable diversity of macroscopic structures on bedding planes that can be compared with various kinds of microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS). Field sedimentological investigations, combined with laboratory analysis of bedding planes and petrographic study of thin sections have allowed us to characterise a range of depositional environments and document the spectrum of biological structures. MISS are reported from frequently subaerial environments, through commonly submerged facies, and down to permanently sub-wavebase settings. Palaeoenvironmental conditions (water depth, exposure, hydrodynamic energy) control the distribution of MISS within these facies. This demonstrates that mat-forming microbial communities were arguably well adapted to low light levels or periodic exposure. Some MISS from the Diabaig Formation are typical of Precambrian microbial mats, including reticulate fabrics and ‘old elephant skin’ textures. In addition to these, a number of new and unusual fabrics of putative microbial origin are described, including linear arrays of ridges and grooves (cf. ‘Arumberia’) and discoidal structures that are comparable with younger Ediacaran fossils such as Beltanelliformis. These observations indicate that benthic microbial ecosystems were thriving in freshwater lake systems ~ 1000 Ma, and indicate how microbially induced sedimentary structures may be applied as facies indicators for Proterozoic lacustrine environments. The discovery of structures closely resembling Ediacaran fossils (cf. Beltanelliformis) also serves to highlight the difficulty of interpreting simple discoidal bedding plane structures as metazoan fossils.
- microbial mat