ABOVE: Fossilized rangeomorph remains of the animals’ leafy fronds and thin, filamentous connections

Rangeomorphs, fern-like animals that populated the ocean floors roughly half a billion years ago, were connected by a network of thin filaments, according to a study published on March 5 in Current Biology. The researchers found evidence of these filaments in fossils at the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, Canada, and write in their report that the networks may have facilitated reproduction and nutrient transport.

“We’ve always looked at these organisms as individuals, but we’ve now found that several individual members of the same species can be linked by these filaments, like a real-life social network,” says coauthor Alex Liu of the University of Cambridge in a press release. “We may now need to reassess earlier studies into how these organisms interacted, and particularly how they competed for space and resources...

A. V. Liu, F.S. Dunn, “Filamentous connections between Ediacaran fronds,” Current Biologydoi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.052, 2020.

 Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at aschleunes@the-scientist.com.

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