Paper No. 213-6
Presentation Time: 9:20 AM
THE IMPORTANCE OF SIZE AND LOCATION WITHIN GREGARIOUS POPULATIONS OF ERNIETTA PLATEAUENSIS
Ernietta plateauensis is a semi-infaunal macroscopic eukaryote of unknown affinities common in latest Ediacaran (~548-539 Ma) shallow marine settings of Namibia. The discovery of in-situ assemblages of Ernietta has demonstrated that these organisms lived in aggregated populations, while studies employing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling have supported the hypothesis that these organisms were likely behaving as gregarious suspension feeders, analogous to many extant invertebrate phyla in present-day marine environments. Careful census and measurement of individuals within these in-situ populations offers an opportunity to examine how their size and location within an aggregation affects nutrient delivery dynamics. In this study, we build on previous CFD analyses by simulating fluid flow over isolated Ernietta aggregates comprising individuals with a range of sizes, and additionally reconstruct an entire population of Ernietta preserved in-situ from Farm Hansburg, Namibia. We use a combination of stationary and time-dependent CFD to reconstruct nutrient-carrying flow paths within this population, and compare the efficiency with which nutrients are partitioned between individuals of different shapes and sizes. Our results demonstrate that smaller Ernietta experience limited recirculation within their cavities compared to larger individuals. Furthermore, in spatially-accurate distributions, reduced recirculation is limited to isolated individuals of any size, while smaller individuals found downstream of larger ones receive enhanced cavity mixing. These results represent the first spatially-accurate, three-dimensional reconstructions of fluid flow over a fossil population yet performed, and hint at intra-specific competition within latest Ediacaran benthic communities.