New Study Reveals How Complex Earth’s Ecosystems Were Early On

Posted: Nov 30 2015, 7:53pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


New Study Reveals How Complex Earth’s Ecosystem Was Early on
A computer stimulation that helped reseachers analyze how extinct organism fed, Credit: M. Laflamme

Earth's early ecosystem was more complex than originally thought.

Researchers have found that Earth’s early ecosystem was more complex than originally thought. They have studied the fossil of an extinct creature known as Tribrachidium which lived in the oceans some 555 million years ago and found that the bizarre organism used to collect drifting matter and food particles from the oceans and feed on. This is the first time when such kind of feeding behavior was observed in any organism of that period.

Tribrachidium belonged to a period called Ediacaran which spanned over 635 million to 541 million years ago and is characterized by a variety of complex organisms. Most of them have no modern relatives to speak of. It was initially thought that those organisms were relied on just few feeding ways but the latest study, which used a computer modeling approach called computational fluid dynamics, suggests that they were capable of more types of feeding than initially believed. 

“For many years, scientists have assumed that Earth's oldest complex organisms, which lived over half a billion years ago, fed in only one or two different ways,” said Dr Simon Darroch, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University.

“Our study has shown this to be untrue, Tribrachidium and perhaps other species were capable of suspension feeding. This demonstrates that, contrary to our expectations, some of the first ecosystems were actually quite complex."

Computational fluid dynamics created 3D computer graphics which allowed researchers to figure out the unique feeding behavior of an extinct species which may not be possible otherwise since the creature is not linked to known modern relatives. 

“The computer simulations we ran allowed us to test competing theories for feeding in Tribrachidium. This approach has great potential for improving our understanding of many extinct organisms." Dr Rahman, a Research Fellow in Bristol's School of Earth Sciences said.

Analyzing fossils through 3D models has become more widespread and accessible now and these models can be used to address a number of questions about the biology of ancient organisms. 



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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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