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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
327 Downloads (Pure)


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
Issue number1
Early online date11 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Ediacaran
  • rangeomorph
  • morphology
  • intraspecific variation
  • taxonomy


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