More than 540 million years ago, primitive organisms that looked like frilled tulip blooms shared communal meals at underwater "dinner parties," according to fossils found in Namibia.
Clusters of these fossils in several locations showed that ancient creatures known as Ernietta gathered together on the ocean floor during the Ediacaran period (635 million to 541 million years ago).
Recently, scientists investigated why these organisms, among the earliest forms of life on Earth, may have assembled in groups, discovering that it had to do with how the soft, cup-shaped Ernietta fed.
For the study, the researchers created digital 3D models of these partly buried Ernietta, then subjected the models to variable water flows.
In doing so, the researchers hoped to pinpoint Ernietta feeding techniques and explain the ancient sea creatures' preference for group living, according to the study.
The researchers observed that Ernietta directed flowing water into a central body cavity, which is likely where nutrients were absorbed, said lead study author Brandt Gibson, a geobiologist and doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.