Anatomy of the Ediacaran rangeomorph Charnia masoni

Frances S. Dunn, Philip R. Wilby, Charlotte G. Kenchington, Dmitriy V. Grazhdankin, Philip C.J. Donoghue, Alexander G. Liu

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Abstract

The Ediacaran macrofossil Charnia masoni Ford is perhaps the most iconic member of the Rangeomorpha: a group of seemingly sessile, frondose organisms that dominates late Ediacaran benthic, deep-marine fossil assemblages. Despite C. masoni exhibiting broad palaeogeographic and stratigraphic ranges, there have been few morphological studies that consider the variation observed amongst populations of specimens derived from multiple global localities. We present an analysis of C. masoni that evaluates specimens from the UK, Canada and Russia, representing the largest morphological study of this taxon to date. We describe substantial morphological variation within C. masoni and present a new morphological model for this species that has significant implications both for interpretation of rangeomorph architecture, and potentially for existing taxonomic schemes. Previous reconstructions of Charnia include assumptions regarding the presence of structures seen in other rangeomorphs (e.g. an internal stalk) and of homogeneity in higher order branch morphology; observations that are not borne out by our investigations. We describe variation in the morphology of third and fourth order branches, as well as variation in gross structure near the base of the frond. The diagnosis of Charnia masoni is emended to take account of these new features. These findings highlight the need for large-scale analyses of rangeomorph morphology in order to better understand the biology of this long-enigmatic group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-176
Number of pages20
JournalPapers in Palaeontology
Volume5
Issue number1
Early online date11 Sep 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Ediacaran
  • rangeomorph
  • morphology
  • intraspecific variation
  • taxonomy

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    Dunn, F. S., Wilby, P. R., Kenchington, C. G., Grazhdankin, D. V., Donoghue, P. C. J., & Liu, A. G. (2019). Anatomy of the Ediacaran rangeomorph Charnia masoni. Papers in Palaeontology, 5(1), 157-176. https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1234