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Reconstructing a lost world: Ediacaran rangeomorphs from Spaniard's Bay, Newfoundland

  • Guy M. Narbonne (a1) (a2), Marc Laflamme (a1) (a3), Carolyn Greentree (a4) and Peter Trusler (a3)

Ediacaran fronds at Spaniard's Bay on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland exhibit exquisite, three-dimensional preservation with morphological features less than 0.05 mm in width visible on the best preserved specimens. Most of the nearly 100 specimens are juvenile rangeomorphs, an extinct Ediacaran clade that numerically dominated the early evolution of complex multicellular life. Spaniard's Bay rangeomorphs are characterized by cm-scale architectural elements exhibiting self-similar branching over several fractal scales that were used as modules in construction of larger structures. Four taxa of rangeomorph fronds are present – Avalofractus abaculus n. gen. et sp., Beothukis mistakensis Brasier and Antcliffe, Trepassia wardae (Narbonne and Gehling), and Charnia cf. C. masoni Ford. All of these taxa exhibit an alternate array of primary rangeomorph branches that pass off a central stalk or furrow that marks the midline of the petalodium. Avalofractus is remarkably self similar over at least four fractal scales, with each scale represented by double-sided rangeomorph elements that were constrained only at their attachment point with the higher-order branch and thus were free to rotate and pivot relative to other branches. Beothukis is similar in organization, but its primary branches show only one side of a typical rangeomorph element, probably due to longitudinal branch folding, and the position of the individual branches was moderately constrained. Trepassia shows only single-sided branches with both primary and secondary branches emanating from a central stalk or furrow; primary branches were capable of minor pivoting as reflected in bundles of secondary branches. Charnia shows only single-sided primary branches that branch from a zigzag central furrow and that were firmly constrained relative to each. This sequence provides a developmental linkage between Rangea-type and Charnia-type rangeomorphs. Avalonian assemblages show a wide array of rangeomorph constructions, but later Ediacaran assemblages contain a lower diversity of rangeomorphs represented mainly by well-constrained forms.

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