Ediacaran fossils from Newfoundland

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I told you I liked fossils, and here are some more that put yesterday's Junggarsuchus to shame in both age and weirdness. Everyone has heard of the Cambrian 'explosion', but there are also collections of pre-Cambrian fossil animals that have always been rather enigmatic—they just don't seem to correspond well to the morphology of Cambrian, or modern, forms.

Some new specimens from the pre-Cambrian have been described in a paper titled, "Modular construction of early Ediacaran complex life forms." They have been collected from 560 million year old rocks in Newfoundland, Canada. The focus of the paper is on patterns of organization: as the title says, these organisms appear to be modular in form, but it isn't the segmental modularity we see today. Instead, these pre-Cambrian animals were built on a fractal branching plan, repeated iterations of a structure called the "rangeomorph frondlet". The result was a creature that looked feathery or fern-like, and when described, it's hard to avoid using terms we usually associate with plants, like "stalk" and "leaf-like". But don't be confused, these are not plants, nor are they anything like modern animals, such as sea-pens, which have also adopted this kind of morphology.

Continue reading "Ediacaran fossils from Newfoundland" (on Pharyngula

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Great Fossils! Here in South Australia, home of the Edicarian fauna, we have the food fortune to have a very nice Edicarian display. Note the little bloke near the top in that link? This is the first (as yet upublished) Edicarian chordate. This is not only way cool, but does great damage to the “Cambrian Explosion refutes evolutionary biology/Darwinism” argument used by the Paleyist, and currently being given a good run for it’s money in DI fellow Stephen C. Meyer’s paper “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories”.

The little Edicarian chordate shows that, contrary to the Paleyist assertions, major body plans did not all develop in the Cambrian explosion, but were developing and diversifying long before this.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on August 27, 2004 6:29 AM.

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