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Fractal branching organizations of Ediacaran rangeomorph fronds reveal a lost Proterozoic body plan

Hoyal Cuthill, Jennifer F and Conway Morris, Simon (2014) 'Fractal branching organizations of Ediacaran rangeomorph fronds reveal a lost Proterozoic body plan.' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (36). 13122 - 13126. ISSN 0027-8424

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Abstract

The branching morphology of Ediacaran rangeomorph fronds has no exact counterpart in other complex macroorganisms. As such, these fossils pose major questions as to growth patterns, functional morphology, modes of feeding, and adaptive optimality. Here, using parametric Lindenmayer systems, a formal model of rangeomorph morphologies reveals a fractal body plan characterized by self-similar, axial, apical, alternate branching. Consequent morphological reconstruction for 11 taxa demonstrates an adaptive radiation based on 3D space-filling strategies. The fractal body plan of rangeomorphs is shown to maximize surface area, consistent with diffusive nutrient uptake from the water column (osmotrophy). The enigmas of rangeomorph morphology, evolution, and extinction are resolved by the realization that they were adaptively optimized for unique ecological and geochemical conditions in the late Proterozoic. Changes in ocean conditions associated with the Cambrian explosion sealed their fate.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Life Sciences, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 12:29
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 12:29
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25757

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