Newfoundland Fossils Captured in the Latest Issue of Scientific American

Credit: Reid Psaltis / Scientific American
Scientists are wondering A.) How did Rangeomorphs grow to be so big, relative to other life forms of their time, and B.) why does their appearance in the fossil record coincide with a sudden explosion in different life forms?

Scientific American, North America’s preeminent magazine for all things science, has published an article about Newfoundland in the “Advances” section of their October issue.

The article, “Great Shapeshifters,” is about Rangeomorph fossils. Depicted above, Rangeomorphs would have been like jellyfish in texture, but were shaped like branched plants. They appeared during the Ediacaran period (635-541 million years ago), right before the “Cambrian explosion” — a period in time where a sudden burst in biodiversity on earth occurred.

These fossils have scientists wondering A.) How did Rangeomorphs grow to be so big, relative to other life forms of their time, and B.) Why does their appearance in the fossil record coincide with a sudden explosion in different life forms present on earth?

Figuring out how Rangeomorphs grew considerably larger in size than any of their kin could help explain the aforementioned explosion of biodiversity. So the authors of a recent article in Nature Ecology & Evolution catscanned the Newfoundland fossils, and took high tech photos of them, so they could apply some advanced mathematical models to the fossils.

Their work has added more credence to the theory that Rangeomorphs may have been able to boost their size on account of increased nutrient availability at this time in history.

The earth’s geochemistry was in a state of flux during this era, and presumably provided organisms like Rangeomoprhs with more matter to fuel themselves with. It’s very much akin to how fertilizing your vegetable garden makes those plants grow bigger and better.

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