So, it seems some of Earth’s earliest complex life forms disappeared for the simplest reasons – they got eaten. Excerpt:
Strange and largely immobile organisms made of tubes were the first complex life on Earth. Appearing 579 million years ago, they thrived on the seafloor for some 37 million years, then vanished – becoming a curiosity we know only from faint impressions in the sandstone fossil record.
What made them die out? New fossil evidence from Namibia suggests that the Ediacarans, as these creatures are known, had their world turned upside by an explosion of life forms at the beginning of the Cambrian period 541 million years ago. Some of these may have evolved to eat their enigmatic predecessors and to bioengineer the environment in ways that left little hope for the passive Ediacarans.
If so, the very first mass extinction of complex life forms had a biological cause, unlike the big five mass extinctions which are thought to be environmentally driven – kicked off by widespread volcanic eruptions that poisoned the oceans or a massive meteorite strike, for example.
Pre-Cambrian Earth was a wildly chaotic place, biologically speaking. It was an evolutionary drunkard’s walk, a laboratory for thousands of different complex life patterns. Vertebrates eventually would seem to have won out, wouldn’t they? Actually, not so much; in terms of biomass, this is a planet owned by bacteria.
But for complex life forms, yes, vertebrates are pretty much where it’s at. But it wasn’t always that way, and it seems that our ancestors (distant, distant ancestors) won out for one simple reason: They were hungry.
Maybe that’s where some of us self-employed small businesstypes get it. To succeed in business, you have to be hungry; maybe that goes back 579 million years.