Some of the first animals on Earth were connected by a network of filamentous filaments. Found the earliest evidence of their existence by scientists from Cambridge and Oxford. Such organisms lived half a billion years ago. It is reported by Current Biology.
Scientists from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford have discovered petrified filaments, some up to four meters long, connecting organisms known as rangeomorphs that dominated the Earth’s oceans half a billion years ago.
The team discovered entire networks of threads. They may have been used for nutrition, communication, or breeding. A total of seven species were found at nearly 40 different fossil sites in Newfoundland, Canada.
Towards the end of the Ediakar period, between 571 and 541 million years ago, the first diverse communities of large and complex organisms began to appear: before that, almost all life on Earth was microscopic in size.
The fern-like reunomorphs were some of the most successful life forms in this period, they grew up to two meters in height and colonized large sections of the seabed. They were one of the first animals that ever existed on our planet, although their strange anatomy has puzzled paleontologists for years. These organisms did not have a mouth, organs or vehicles. One suggestion was that they absorb nutrients from the water around them.
“These organisms were apparently able to quickly populate the seabed, and we often see one dominant species on these fossilized strata. As it was possible at all, no one can understand, but these threads can explain this phenomenon”.
Alex Liu of the Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences and author of the article
Since they were unable to move and lived in one place, whole populations can be analyzed from fossil records. Earlier studies of random morphic forms examined how these organisms could multiply and be so successful at one time.
Most threads ranged from 2 to 40 cm, although some were up to four meters long. However, since they are so thin, filaments are visible only in places where fossil conservation is very good, which is one of the reasons they have not been identified before. Fossils for this study were found at five sites in eastern Newfoundland, one of the world’s richest sources of Ediacar fossils. These threads have an incredible level of detail that can be preserved at these ancient depths of the sea; some of these filaments are only one tenth of a millimeter wide.
“We have always considered these organisms as separate individuals, but now we have found that these individual strands can be interconnected by several separate members of the same species. Now, we may need to review earlier studies of how these organisms interacted, and in particular how they competed for space and resources at the bottom of the ocean. The most unexpected thing for me is the realization that they are connected. I have been studying them for more than ten years, but this was a real surprise. ”
Alex Liu from the Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences and author of the article
It is possible that filaments were used as a form of clonal propagation, like modern strawberries, but since the organisms in the network were the same size, the filaments could have other functions. For example, the threads may have provided stability against strong ocean currents. Another theory is that they allowed organisms to exchange nutrients – such a prehistoric version of the “tree web” observed on modern trees.