The new fossils prove that these 500 million-year-old organisms were in fact able to inhabit harsh, near-shore conditions.
The reduced diversity observed in the younger Namibian deposits might therefore suggest genuine evolutionary change, for example a mass extinction, potentially the first such event on Planet Earth.
Studies of Ediacaran fossils in the Flinders Ranges can be traced back to 1947 and Reginald Sprigg’s original report of fossil “jellyfish” from the Ediacara Hills, a name subsequently given to the “Ediacaran System” of geological time.
Research from the region has thrown significant light on the early history of multicellular life. The recognition that the organisms had established a foothold in coastal waters opens up new avenues for research into their evolution and ultimate disappearance.
Animal life would not make it fully onto the land until a later period of time known as the Silurian.
However, the new discovery in Australia suggests Earth’s coastal waters were already home to a diverse range of creatures over 100 million years earlier.