The developmental biology of Charnia and the eumetazoan affinity of the Ediacaran rangeomorphs

Frances S Dunn*, Alexander G Liu, Dmitriy V Grazhdankin, Philip Vixseboxse, Joseph Flannery-Sutherland, Emily Green, Simon Harris, Philip Wilby, Philip C J Donoghue

*Corresponding author for this work

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

30 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)


Molecular timescales estimate that early animal lineages diverged tens of millions of years before their earliest unequivocal fossil evidence. The Ediacaran macrobiota (~574–538 million years ago) are largely eschewed from this debate, primarily due to their extreme phylogenetic uncertainty, but they remain germane. We characterize the development of Charnia masoni and establish the phylogenetic affinity of rangeomorphs, among the oldest and most enigmatic components of the Ediacaran macrobiota. We provide the first direct evidence for the internal interconnected nature of rangeomorphs, and show Charnia was constructed of repeated branches that derived successively from pre-existing branches. We find homology and rationalise morphogenesis between disparate rangeomorph taxa, before producing a new phylogenetic analysis, resolving Charnia as a stem-eumetazoan and expanding the anatomical disparity of that group to include a long-extinct bodyplan. These data bring competing records of early animal evolution into closer agreement, reformulating our understanding of the evolutionary emergence of animal bodyplans.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabe0291
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScience Advances
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 The Authors.

Structured keywords

  • MSci Palaeontology and Evolution


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