Suspension feeding in the enigmatic Ediacaran organism Tribrachidium demonstrates complexity of Neoproterozoic ecosystems

Imran Rahman, Simon A.F. Darroch, Rachel A. Racicot, Marc Laflamme

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

29 Citations (Scopus)
346 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The first diverse and morphologically complex macroscopic communities appear in the late Ediacaran, 575–541 million years ago. The enigmatic organisms that make up these communities are thought to have formed simple ecosystems characterized by a narrow range of feeding modes, with most restricted to the passive absorption of organic particles (osmotrophy). Here, we test between competing feeding models for the iconic Ediacaran organism Tribrachidium heraldicum using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). We show that the external morphology of Tribrachidium passively directs water flow towards the apex of the organism, and generates low-velocity eddies above apical ‘pits’. These patterns of fluid flow are inconsistent with osmotrophy, and instead support interpretation of Tribrachidium as a passive suspension feeder. This provides the oldest empirical evidence for suspension feeding at 555–550 Ma, ~10 million years before the Cambrian explosion, and demonstrates that Ediacaran organisms formed more complex ecosystems in the latest Precambrian, involving a larger number of ecological guilds, than currently appreciated.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1500800
Number of pages9
JournalScience Advances
Volume1
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • Ediacara
  • Ecology
  • suspension feeding
  • ecosystem engineers
  • computational fluid dynamics

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