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Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences


Ediacaran Enigmas: Resolving the fossil record of early animals

Drs Alex Liu, Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill, Emily Mitchell and doctoral student Charlotte Kenchington.

March 2014

This display was a snapshot of the research taking place in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge on fossils from the 540-580 million year old Ediacaran Period, known as the 'Ediacaran Biota'. These completely soft-bodied organisms were some of the earliest complex multicellular life on Earth and included the first fossils that can be recognised as animals. The display focused on one group, the frond-shaped Rangeomorphs. These organisms were like nothing else that has ever been discovered and studies in Cambridge are attempting to better understand these 'Ediacaran enigmas'.

Casts of fossils from Newfoundland in Canada were displayed alongside ones from Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire. This was the first time most of these specimens had been on display anywhere in the world. Also on display were 3D mathematical digital models of these organisms, produced using current research, which try and interpret how some of these organisms may have looked in life. The research in Cambridge made this the most up-to-date and accurate display on Ediacaran fossils in the UK.


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