The advent of animals: The view from the Ediacaran.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Apr 21; 112(16):4865-70.PN
Patterns of origination and evolution of early complex life on this planet are largely interpreted from the fossils of the Precambrian soft-bodied Ediacara Biota. These fossils occur globally and represent a diverse suite of organisms living in marine environments. Although these exceptionally preserved fossil assemblages are typically difficult to reconcile with modern phyla, examination of the morphology, ecology, and taphonomy of these taxa provides keys to their relationships with modern taxa. Within the more than 30 million y range of the Ediacara Biota, fossils of these multicellular organisms demonstrate the advent of mobility, heterotrophy by multicellular animals, skeletonization, sexual reproduction, and the assembly of complex ecosystems, all of which are attributes of modern animals. This approach to these fossils, without the constraint of attempting phylogenetic reconstructions, provides a mechanism for comparing these taxa with both living and extinct animals.