Three-dimensional reconstructions of the putative metazoan Namapoikia show that it was a microbial construction

Akshay Mehra, Wesley A. Watters, John P. Grotzinger, Adam C. Maloof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Strata from the Ediacaran Period (635 million to 538 million years ago [Ma]) contain several examples of enigmatic, putative shell-building metazoan fossils. These fossils may provide insight into the evolution and environmental impact of biomineralization on Earth, especially if their biological affinities and modern analogs can be identified. Recently, apparent morphological similarities with extant coralline demosponges have been used to assign a poriferan affinity to Namapoikia rietoogensis, a modular encrusting construction that is found growing between (and on) microbial buildups in Namibia. Here, we present three-dimensional reconstructions of Namapoikia that we use to assess the organism’s proposed affinity. Our morphological analyses, which comprise quantitative measurements of thickness, spacing, and connectivity, reveal that Namapoikia produced approximately millimeter-thick meandering and branching/merging sheets. We evaluate this reconstructed morphology in the context of poriferan biology and determine that Namapoikia likely is not a sponge-grade organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19760-19766
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume117
Issue number33
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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