On the eve of animal radiation: phylogeny, ecology and evolution of the Ediacara biota

Trends Ecol Evol. 2009 Jan;24(1):31-40. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2008.07.015. Epub 2008 Oct 25.


Ediacara fossils document an important evolutionary episode just before the Cambrian explosion and hold critical information about the early evolution of macroscopic and complex multicellular life. They also represent an enduring controversy in paleontology. How are the Ediacara fossils related to living animals? How did they live? Do they share any evolutionary patterns with other life forms? Recent developments indicate that Ediacara fossils epitomize a phylogenetically diverse biosphere, probably including animals, protists, algae, fungi and others. Their simple ecology is dominated by epibenthic osmotrophs, deposit feeders and grazers, but few if any predators. Their evolution started with an early morphospace expansion followed by taxonomic diversification within confined morphospace, and concluded by extinction of many taxa at the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecology
  • Fossils*
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Phylogeny