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Prehistoric Ocean Organism Ate With More Complexity Than Previously Thought

Nov 28, 2015 04:13 PM EST
Fossil of the Extinct Organism Tribrachidium
Some prehistoric organisms ate in a complex way than previously thought, computer simulations have indicated.
(Photo : M. Laflamme)

Using computer simulations to study the long-extinct ocean organism Tribrachidium, a team of researchers led by the University of Bristol recently found that the creature, which lived about 555 million years ago, was more complex than previously thought.

The study used a modelling approach known as computational fluid dynamics (often used in engineering) to learn that Tribrachidium fed by gathering particles in water-or using what's called suspension feeding. This had not previously been noted in organisms from the same time period, according to a release.

The large, complex organisms of that time period, the Ediacaran, 635 million to 541 million years ago, were previously thought to have only a few feeding modes. This new study suggests there was more diversity of eating types than thought, said the release.

"Tribrachidium doesn't look like any modern species, and so it has been really hard to work out what it was like when it was alive. The application of cutting-edge techniques, such as CT scanning and computational fluid dynamics, allowed us to determine, for the first time, how this long-extinct organism fed," said Dr. Marc Laflamme, an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga and a co-author of the study, in a statement. 

The team's findings were recently published in the journal Science Advances

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-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales 

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