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Social network in early animals

Date: 07 March 2020 Tags: Biodiversity

Issue

Scientists have discovered the fossilised threads connecting organisms known as rangeomorphs, which may have been used for nutrition, communication or reproduction.

 

Background

Towards the end of the Ediacaran period, between 571 and 541 million years ago, the first diverse communities of large and complex organisms began to appear.

Prior to this, almost all life on the Earth had been microscopic in size.

 

Details

  • The study found these filament networks in seven species across nearly 40 different fossil sites in Newfoundland, Canada.

  • Fern-like rangeomorphs were some of the most successful life forms during the period, growing up to two metres in height and colonising large areas of the sea floor.

  • Fern-like rangeomorphs were some of the most successful life forms during this period, growing up to two metres in height and colonising large areas of the sea floor.

  • These organisms do not appear to have had mouths, organs or means of moving. One suggestion is that they absorbed nutrients from the water around them.

  • Since rangeomorphs could not move and are preserved where they lived, it is possible to analyse whole populations from the fossil record.

  • Since they are so thin, the filaments are only visible in places where the fossil preservation is exceptionally good, which is one of the reasons they were not identified sooner.

  • It’s possible that the filaments were used as a form of clonal reproduction, like modern strawberries. Since the organisms in the network were the same size, the filaments may have had other functions.

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