Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

'Ecosystem engineers' responsible for first mass extinction
by Brooks Hays
Nashville (UPI) Jul 29, 2016

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Some 540 million years ago, the first animals disappeared. It's an event known as the end-Ediacaran extinction. New research suggests another group of early animals, known as Metazoans, were responsible.

Ediacarans were the first successful group of multicellular organisms. Though largely immobile, the marine creatures thrived across much of the planet. They took on a variety of shapes and sizes -- some simple blobs, other segmented and complex. Many took on disk and tube shapes, others featured a quilted appearance.

After thriving for more than 60 million years, they quickly died out.

Until now, researchers hadn't had recovered much evidence of an overlap between the reigns of Ediacarans and Metazoans. A wealth of new fossils in Namibia, however, prove that for a brief period prior to the Cambrian explosion, the two animal groups shared the planet.

As the end-Ediacaran extinction made clear, cohabitation wasn't in the cards.

The new research suggests that before the Metazoans went on to spawn a variety of new animal types -- vertebrates, mollusks, arthropods, annelids, sponges and jellyfish -- during the Cambrian explosion, they made life untenable for the Ediacarans.

"These new species were 'ecological engineers' who changed the environment in ways that made it more and more difficult for the Ediacarans to survive," Simon Darroch, assistant professor of Earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, said in a news release.

"We've discovered some new fossil sites that preserve both Ediacara biota and animal fossils, both animal burrows -- 'trace fossils' -- and the remains of animals themselves, sharing the same communities, which lets us speculate about how these two very different groups of organisms interacted," Darroch explained.

Though there's evidence that Metazoans preyed upon Ediacarans, reserachers say it was their transformation of the ecosystem that spelled the end for the earliest animals.

Researchers say the findings -- detailed in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology -- can serve as cautionary tale for modern times.

"There is a powerful analogy between the Earth's first mass extinction and what is happening today," Darroch said. "The end-Ediacaran extinction shows that the evolution of new behaviors can fundamentally change the entire planet, and today we humans are the most powerful 'ecosystems engineers' ever known."

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Explore The Early Earth at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Before animals, evolution waited eons to inhale
Atlanta GA (SPX) Jul 27, 2016
A couple of times in four billion years, evolution has slowed to a crawl. And an eon or so has passed before more complex life forms, such as simple animals, could arise. Evolution may have been waiting for a decent breath of oxygen, said researcher Chris Reinhard. And that was hard to come by. His research team is tracking down O2 concentrations in oceans, where earliest animals evolved. ... read more

Asteroid that formed moon's Imbrium Basin may have been protoplanet-sized

Russian and US engineers plan manned moon mission

SSTL and Goonhilly announce partnership and a call for lunar orbit payloads

Taiwan to make lunar lander for NASA moon-mining mission

NASA's Viking Data Lives on, Inspires 40 Years Later

Opportunity Rover wrapping up work within Marathon Valley

NASA Mars Rover Can Choose Laser Targets on Its Own

NASA Selects Five Mars Orbiter Concept Studies

Russia, US Discuss Lunar Station for Mars Mission

Disney theme park in Shanghai nears a million visitors

NASA Sails Full-Speed Ahead in Solar System Exploration

Sensor Technology Could Revolutionize What You Sleep On

China commissions space tracking ship as new station readied

China's second space lab Tiangong-2 reaches launch center

Dutch Radio Antenna to Depart for Moon on Chinese Mission

Chinese Space Garbageman is not a Weapon

Russia launches ISS-bound cargo ship

New Crew Members, Including NASA Biologist, Launch to Space Station

Russian New Soyuz-MS Spacecraft Docks With ISS for First Time

NASA Highlights Space Station Research Benefits, Opportunities at San Diego Conference

Intelsat 33e arrives at the Spaceport for Arianespace's August launch with Ariane 5

Commission approves acquisition of Arianespace by ASL, subject to conditions

SpaceX cargo ship arrives at space station

Ukraine, US aim to launch jointly-developed space rocket

Alien Solar System Boasts Tightly Spaced Planets, Unusual Orbits

First atmospheric study of Earth-sized exoplanets reveals rocky worlds

Atmospheric chemistry on paper

Surface Composition Determines Planet's Temperature and Habitability

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research

NUS scientists develop plastic flexible magnetic memory device

Scientists grow dandelions to make rubber

Scientists create new thin material that mimics cell membranes

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement