Fractofusus misrai  is an extinct Rangeomorph from the Ediacaran period (635 - 543 ma). It grew up to 220 mm in length and is one of the first complex multi-cellular organisms to appear on Earth.

First reported by Anderson and Misrai in 1968, Fractofusus was discovered at Mistaken Point in Newfoundland. Fractofusus had a flat spindle-shaped body (fusiform) that consisted of two vanes divided by a zig-zag commissure. Each vane was made up of a series of oblong modules that were in turn made up of distinctive fractal-branching frondlets (Gehling & Narbonne, 2007).

Fractofusus has no known affinities with any existing phylum and is thought to belong to the Rangeomorph group of Ediacaran organisms which became extinct prior to the Cambrian Explosion - when most phyla that we know today first appeared - representing a kind of 'failed experiment' of early life. 

Statistical studies of distributional patterns suggest that Fractofusus  reproduced by growing tendrils out from the parent body that then terminated in sprouting offspring (Mitchell E, et al, 2015).  These tendrils are known as stolons and are usually associated with certain plants. However rangeomorphs are known to have been benthic organisms that existed in the deep ocean away from sunlight - which means that they could not have been a form of photosynthesising plant.  The taxonomic relationship of Ediacaran organisms like Fractofusus to Cambrian lifeforms still remains a mystery and is regarded as central to our understanding of the early evolution of complex life.


With thanks to Dr Jean-Bernard Caron for feedback on anatomical  detail.