A group of international researchers have found through computer simulations how a disconcerting organism of 555 million years formed part of a more complex ecosystem than previously thought.
Canadian, American and British scientists, worked with Tribrachidium fossils, an extremely primitive animal that lived in Earth’s oceans about 555 million years ago.
Using a technique called computational fluid dynamics (FCD), the researchers were able to see how Tribrachidium could subsist on small particles suspended in water, a form of power that until now had not been documented in organisms from that distant time.
The Tribrachidium lived in a period called Ediacaran, which covers between 635 and 541 million years ago and was characterized by a variety of large and complex organisms that, in most cases, are very difficult to relate with any present species. Until now, it was thought that these organisms formed very simple ecosystems, which were characterized by only a few modes of feeding. However, the new study suggests they were able to feed on very different and unexpected ways than in initial theories.
“For many years, scientists have assumed that Earth’s oldest complex organisms, which lived over half a billion years ago, fed in only one or two different ways,” Simon Darroch, one of the researchers said. “Our study has shown this to be untrue, Tribrachidium and perhaps other species were capable of suspension feeding. This demonstrates that, contrary to our expectations, some of the first ecosystems were actually quite complex,” Darroch added.
The computational fluid dynamics is a method that simulates the flow of fluids commonly used in engineering, and this research is one of its first applications at the field of Paleontology. With these simulations in hand, scientists were able to test the various existing theories about Tribrachidium feeding. Also, the technique has proved useful to improve our understanding of many other extinct organisms.
Source: Tech Times