All Saints’ Day, Ediacaran Edition

In honor of Life Triumphant, all the ancestors, known and unknown.




These are Dickinsonia fossils from the Flinders Range in Australia. They’re about 570 million years old, from the “Ediacaran.” They are among the earliest known fossils of any multicellular creature on Earth. Make that: of any multicelluar creature in the Universe.

I came across these specimens during my visit to the Yale Peabody Museum a few years ago. I was there to look at a different group of fossils (youngsters, just 33 million years old) and walked past a cabinet with “Ediacaran” on the label. Gob-smacked, I begged a look and my hosts casually opened a drawer to reveal The Tomb of the really, really ancients. Could I feel the reworked remnants of their DNA squirming and leaping in my every cell? Did my cranium feel hairline fractures rush every which way as my skull’s apex lifted in astonishment? Did my pentadactyl limbtips and opposable thumbs quiver as I held the camera?

Ah, beatific visions.


12 thoughts on “All Saints’ Day, Ediacaran Edition

  1. Robert W Smith

    I know the feeling. Even as a 14-year old in 1959 I was awed by the specimens in the British Museum. In those days, you could browse through the drawers on your own. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by all things in the natural world. It was nice to be reminded of that day.

    1. Rosa Kirk-Davidoff

      I saw a great exhibit at the British Museum this summer about the history of the museum and of science during the Enlightenment. Drawers of fossils! (Under glass of course) It totally blew me (a 17-year-old) away.

  2. Stephen Truslow

    When I was a youngster back in the fifties my father worked at Yale and he had the pull to get me into the fossil department at the Peabody Museum. I remember the researchers pulling open drawers and revealing wonders from the past. Right now I have some of those fossils, which they let me take, on display in my bathroom.

  3. William

    “earliest known fossils of any multicellular creature on Earth. Make that: of any multicelluar creature in the Universe.”

    Perhaps, but ‘known to us’ isn’t saying all that much … in the scope of the infinite universe.


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