Image of the Day: Filament Networks
Image of the Day: Filament Networks

Image of the Day: Filament Networks

Fossils from Newfoundland, Canada, reveal the extensive connections that existed among Earth’s earliest, sea-dwelling animals.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes
Mar 11, 2020

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

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 on the ocean floor. The most unexpected thing for me is the realisation that these things are connected. I’ve been looking at them for over a decade, and this has been a real surprise.”

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.