Evolutionary biology News

Ediacaran reproduction fossilized?

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From Ediacaran period (635 to 542 million years ago) fossils in Newfoundland:

Apparently asexual reproduction that the researchers compare to that of plants (though it’s unclear that other branches of life cannot do this).

So it appears, here:

A significant fossil find on the Newfoundland coastline could shed light on what may be the oldest physical evidence of reproduction in a complex organism.

A team led by researchers from England’s University of Cambridge found the fossils in the Trinity Bay North area. The new fossils were estimated to be 565 million years old and belonged to Fractofusus, a type of rangeomorph. Rangemorphs, marine organisms that looked a bit like ferns, were some of the earliest complex organisms on Earth. Earlier life forms were mostly single-celled and reproduced simply by dividing.

The Fractofusus fossils are clustered together in a way that suggests there are three generations of organisms in a cluster — larger, older ones surrounded by younger, smaller ones. More.

From the Letter to Nature,

nigmatic macrofossils of late Ediacaran age (580-541 millionyears ago) provide the oldest known record of diverse complex organisms on Earth, lying between the microbially dominated ecosystems of the Proterozoic and the Cambrian emergence ofthe modern biosphere1. Among the oldest and most enigmatic of these macrofossils are the Rangeomorpha, a group characterizedby modular, self-similar branching and a sessile benthic habit2-4.Localized occurrences of large in situ fossilized rangeomorph populations allow fundamental aspects of their biology to beresolved using spatial point process techniques5. Here we use suchtechniques to identify recurrent clustering patterns in the rangeo-morph Fractofusus, revealing a complex life history of multigenerational, stolon-like asexual reproduction, interspersed with dispersal by waterborne propagules. Ecologically, such a habit would have allowed both for the rapid colonization of a localized area and for transport to new, previously uncolonized areas. The capacity of Fractofusus to derive adult morphology by two distinctreproductive modes documents the sophistication of its under-lying developmental biology. (paywall)

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2 Replies to “Ediacaran reproduction fossilized?

  1. 1
    turell says:

    Still doesn’t narrow the gap to the Cambrian animals

  2. 2
    ppolish says:

    Are these animals from a “completely unknown kingdom of life?”

    “Mathematically speaking, they filled their space in a nearly perfect way.”


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