Mary Droser Published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’

Mary Droser

Mary Droser

Mary Droser, a professor of paleontology in the Department of Earth Sciences, and an Australian colleague have a paper in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of April 20 in which they review the data on the Ediacara biota and interpret, from fossils, patterns of evolution, origination, and extinction of early animal life on Earth.

The Precambrian soft-bodied Ediacara biota (575 to 541 million years ago) are Earth’s earliest multicellular communities preserved globally. Representing a diverse suite of organisms living in marine environments, fossils of the Ediacara biota occur at 40 localities worldwide. The record of these organisms provides critical information concerning early experimentation with complex life on Earth.

“We show that although these organisms look very strange and unfamiliar, many of them may have had a biology and/or ecology similar to animals today,” Droser said. “We found that fossils of these multicellular organisms show characteristics of modern taxa and demonstrate the advent of mobility, skeletonization, sexual reproduction, and the assembly of complex ecosystems – all of which are attributes of modern animals.”

The research was supported by grants to Droser from the National Science Foundation and the NASA Exobiology Program.

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