Ancient creatures resembling ferns, known as rangeomorphs, first animals on Earth, might not have been so lonely as scientists thought before. A mysterious network of filaments was found in half-a-billion-year-old rocks from Newfoundland, Canada, and it indicates that those old animals could have communicated one with the other.
What those fibers precisely did isn’t yet known. An idea claims that they were used as anchors to prevent the animals from getting hurt. Another belief claims that the tissues were pipelines for sharing nutrients. Either way, the structure and role of those fibers are quite intriguing for researchers studying it today.
Frankie Dunn and Alex Liu, both palaeobiologists from Cambridge University, teamed up and examined a large variety of the fossilized web of threads. They found connecting leaf-patterned impressions over many rock beds in Newfoundland, Canada.
Most filaments were only a millimeter long and varied from a couple of centimeters (almost an inch) to approximately 40 centimeters. But, there were some fantastic examples of wide-length connections, with some denser lines spreading over four meters.
The mysterious network of filaments helped first animals on Earth communicate
The odd linkings also ranged extensively in the way they were grouped. Some were varying out on their own, to hundreds of filaments compressed into every square meter and went out in all directions, sometimes dividing, or doubling back.
“We’ve always looked at these organisms as individuals, but we’ve now found that several individual members of the same species can be linked by these filaments, like a real-life social network,” stated Liu about the fern-like creatures.
The recently found threads might have provided them some edge, possibly working like the runners on strawberries. They would spread out to grow new generations further afield where they stuck to share nutrients or anchor them down.
It’s quite an intriguing hypothesis that will challenge researchers a lot, maybe revealing examples of surfacing “infant” rangeomorphs. Until that occurs, can only guess what types of linkings- if any- were being done through those ancient social networks.