Abstract

Rangea is the type genus of the Rangeomorpha, an extinct clade near the base of the evolutionary tree of large, complex organisms which prospered during the late Neoproterozoic. It represents an iconic Ediacaran taxon, but the relatively few specimens previously known significantly hindered an accurate reconstruction. Discovery of more than 100 specimens of Rangea in two gutter casts recovered from Farm Aar in southern Namibia significantly expands this data set, and the well preserved internal and external features on these specimens permit new interpretations of Rangea morphology and lifestyle. Internal structures of Rangea consist of a hexaradial axial bulb that passes into an axial stalk extending the length of the fossil. The axial bulb is typically filled with sediment, which becomes increasingly loosely packed and porous distally, with the end of the stalk typically preserved as an empty, cylindrical cone. This length of the axial structure forms the structural foundation for six vanes arranged radially around the axis, with each vane consisting of a bilaminar sheet composed of a repetitive pattern of elements exhibiting at least three orders of self-similar branching. Rangea was probably an epibenthic frond that rested upright on the sea bottom, and all known fossil specimens were transported prior to their final burial in storm deposits.

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