Over 570 million years ago the deep ocean floor was covered in an array of complex, multi-cellular, lifeforms that were too far from light to be photosynthetic organisms like plants or algae. Broadly identified as rangeomorpha they are thought to have become extinct at the end of the Ediacaran period - preceding the sudden "Cambrian Explosion" of animal lifeforms.
The taxonomy and biological affinities of rangeomorphs remain somewhat enigmatic, and their precise relationship to modern organisms is not well understood. Some researchers have suggested that they may represent an extinct evolutionary experiment that did not give rise to any modern lineages.
Others propose that they could be related to early forms of animals or even represent a separate branch of the tree of life. The study of rangeomorpha contributes to our understanding of the early evolution of complex life on Earth.
Rangeomorphs exhibit a distinctive and enigmatic body plan. They are characterized by frond-like structures with a repeating, branching pattern. The intricate and symmetrical nature of their morphology sets them apart from other organisms of their time.
Fossils of rangeomorphs have been found on multiple continents, suggesting a wide distribution during the late Precambrian period. This global distribution raises questions about their adaptability to different environmental conditions and their potential role in shaping ecosystems on a global scale.
The Ediacaran period precedes the Cambrian Explosion, a period of rapid diversification and the emergence of most major animal phyla. Rangeomorphs provide a glimpse into the biological diversity that existed before the explosion and may offer clues about the environmental factors that influenced the subsequent burst of complex life forms.