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Title: Ancient life and moving fluids

Over 3.7 billion years of Earth history, life has evolved complex adaptations to help navigate and interact with the fluid environment. Consequently, fluid dynamics has become a powerful tool for studying ancient fossils, providing insights into the palaeobiology and palaeoecology of extinct organisms from across the tree of life. In recent years, this approach has been extended to the Ediacara biota, an enigmatic assemblage of Neoproterozoic soft‐bodied organisms that represent the first major radiation of macroscopic eukaryotes. Reconstructing the ways in which Ediacaran organisms interacted with the fluids provides new insights into how these organisms fed, moved, and interacted within communities. Here, we provide an in‐depth review of fluid physics aimed at palaeobiologists, in which we dispel misconceptions related to the Reynolds number and associated flow conditions, and specify the governing equations of fluid dynamics. We then review recent advances in Ediacaran palaeobiology resulting from the application of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). We provide a worked example and account of best practice in CFD analyses of fossils, including the first large eddy simulation (LES) experiment performed on extinct organisms. Lastly, we identify key questions, barriers, and emerging techniques in fluid dynamics, which will not only allow us to understand the earliest animal ecosystems better, but will also help to develop new palaeobiological tools for studying ancient life.

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Journal Name:
Biological Reviews
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 129-152
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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