Ediacaran biota : The dawn of animal life in the shadow of giant protists
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Functional, constructional, and preservational criteria led to a reinterpretation of seemingly complex trace fossils and the majority of assumed metazoan body fossils from Vendian lagerstatten. In the new scenario, Ediacaran biota were dominated by procaryote biomats and giant protozoa (Xenophyophoria and Vendobionta), which developed a great variety of shapes and lifestyles in the climatically controlled "golden age" that followed the Marinoan snowball earth. Contemporary metazoans (sponges; polyps; soft-bodied mollusks; possible echinoderms; worm-like burrowers) were adapted to this non-uniformitarian environment, but they remained scarce and relatively small. Some phyla (arthropods, brachiopods) appear to have still been absent. Our study also accentuates the Cambrian Explosion, which put an end to the peaceful "Garden of Ediacara". Not only did the former rulers become extinct or restricted to less favorable environments, but the radiation of metazoan phyla was also accompanied by an ecological revolution that established a new and more dangerous world, which persists to the present day.