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Reconstructions show how some of the earliest animals lived—and died

Posted August 12, 2014
Reconstructions show how some of the earliest animals lived -- and died
This is a paleontological reconstruction of rangeomorph fronds from the Ediacaran Period (635-541 million years ago). These species are from the deep-marine Avalon Assemblage (approximately 575-560 million year ago) known from fossil sites in Canada and the UK, and some are also known from later Ediacaran assemblages. These reconstructions were built using computer models of rangeomorph growth and development. Credit: Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill (University of Cambridge).

A bizarre group of uniquely shaped organisms known as rangeomorphs may have been some of the earliest animals to appear on Earth, uniquely suited to ocean conditions 575 million years ago. A new model devised by researchers at the University of Cambridge has resolved many of the mysteries around the structure, evolution and extinction of these ‘proto animals.’ The findings are reported today in the journal PNAS.

Rangeomorphs were some of the earliest large organisms on Earth, existing during a time when most other forms of life were microscopic in size. Most rangeomorphs were about 10 centimetres high, although some were up to two metres in height.

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