We propose that some of the more conspicuous Ediacaran fossils from the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, including Aspidella, Charnia, and Charniodiscus, were biologically similar to members of the Kingdom Fungi. These organisms were multicellular or multinuclear, lived below the photic zone, could not move or defoul themselves, did not exhibit taphonomic shrinkage, and were not transported or moved. Aspidella, in particular, appears to exhibit indeterminate growth without a maximum size constraint, and appears to show growth zonations similar to modern mycelia. Other fossils from this deposit exhibit a fractal-like growth pattern. Together, these features falsify algal, lichen, and metazoan interpretations of these fossils, yet reflect characteristics of modern fungal mycelia. We emphasize that although no Mistaken Point fossil appears to be a metazoan, not all of the Mistaken Point taxa, and not all of the Ediacaran organisms in general, can reasonably be interpreted using a fungal analogy. Furthermore, the hypothesis that these fossils were functionally fungus-like need not imply that the organisms were members of the crown-group Fungi. We propose further tests for evaluating both this functional hypothesis and the phylogenetic hypothesis that these organisms were members of the total-group Fungi.
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Vol. 43 • No. 1