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Geobiologists propose that the earliest complex organisms fed by absorbing ocean buffet
Date:8/19/2009

on the surface area of the Precambrian fossils. "Modeling efforts suggest that internal vacuoles that is, voids filled with fluids or other biologically inert materials are a particularly effective way of increasing surface-to-volume ratio of complex, macroscopic organisms," said Kowalewski.

They discovered that the two groups (the repeatedly branching rangeomorphs and the air-mattress like erniettomorphs) grew and constructed their bodies in different ways; however both groups attempted to maximize their surface-area to volume ratios in their own way. "The increase in size was clearly accomplished primarily by addition of modules for the erniettomorphs and repetitive branching and inflation of modules for the rangemorphs," Laflamme said. "The repeated branching system in rangeomorphs was essential to allow for a high surface-area to volume ratio necessary for proper osmosis-based feeding."

Today, only microscopic bacteria find it efficient to us only osmosis to feed, although some animals, such as sponges and corals, use osmosis as a supplementary food source. But in the Ediacaran period, 635 to 541 million years ago, with nutrient-rich oceans, "a diffusion-based feeding strategy was more feasible," Laflamme said.

"We believe the Ediacarans were feeding on dissolved organic carbon, which can come in many forms," he said. "It represents the organic material originating from plants, fungi, animals -- you name it, which has dissolved into fats and proteins during natural organic decay. There is a growing body of evidence that in Ediacaran times, due mainly to the absence of animals with true guts capable of packaging organic matter into fecal pellets, there was a much greater pool of dissolved organic nutrients, especially in deeper waters. Without fecal pellets, organic substances would have remained in suspension and decomposed into fats and proteins capable of dissolution into marine waters," he said. "We believe these compounds were th
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Contact: Susan Trulove
STrulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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