|Charnia masoni, a rangeomorph|
The rangeomorphs are a form taxon of frondose Ediacaran fossils that are united by a similarity to Rangea. Some workers, e.g., Pflug and Narbonne, suggest that a natural taxon Rangeomorpha may include all similar-looking fossils.
Rangeomorphs are a key part of the Ediacaran biota which survived about 30 million years, until the base of the Cambrian . They were especially abundant in early Ediacaran Mistaken Point assemblage found in Newfoundland.
Rangeomorphs consist of branching "frond" elements, each a few centimetres long, each of which is itself composed of many smaller branching tubes held up by a semi-rigid organic skeleton. This self-similar structure proceeds over four levels of fractality, and could have been formed using fairly simple developmental patterns.
Rangeomorphs dwelt mainly in the deep ocean, were unable to move, and had no apparent reproductive organs, perhaps reproducing asexually by dropping off new fronds. Nor is there evidence of a gut or mouth. This has led to the hypothesis that they gathered nutrients from seawater by osmosis. Most were attached to the sea floor by a stalk or holdfast, although others (such as the spindle-shaped Fractofusus) lay flat on the sediment surface.
Rangeomorph communities are similar in structure to those of modern, suspension-feeding animals, but it is difficult to relate their morphology to any modern animals. They have at times been aligned to a range of modern animal and protist groups, but none of these classifications has withstood scrutiny; they probably represent an extinct stem group to either the animals or fungi. Whilst the fractal construction may represent a convergent adaptation to osmotic feeding, most workers now consider it to be an apomorphy which establishes the rangeomorph clade as a valid taxonomic entity. The quilted construction suggests a close affinity to the erniettomorphs.
- Narbonne, G. M. (Aug 2004). "Modular Construction of Early Ediacaran Complex Life Forms". Science 305 (5687): 1141–1144. Bibcode:2004Sci...305.1141N. doi:10.1126/science.1099727. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 15256615.
- Laflamme, M.; Xiao, S.; Kowalewski, M. (2009). "Osmotrophy in modular Ediacara organisms". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (34): 14438. Bibcode:2009PNAS..10614438L. doi:10.1073/pnas.0904836106.
- Xiao, S.; Laflamme, M. (January 2009). "On the eve of animal radiation: phylogeny, ecology and evolution of the Ediacara biota". Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24 (1): 31–40. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.07.015. PMID 18952316.