Funisia dorothea is an extinct segmented organism from the Ediacaran period (635 ma - 543 ma) and it is one of the earliest complex multi-cellular organisms to appear on Earth. Its relationship to other animals is unknown.
Funisia was discovered in the Ediacara Hills of South Australia in 2005 (Droser) and it grew up to 300 mm in height, in large clusters of similar sized individuals. Funisia had a concatenated morphology - consisting of a chain of simple cellular units - which attached to the seabed (sessile). It may superficially appear to belong to the plant kingdom but it is considered an entirely different lifeform and its relationship to any existing phylum is still an open question.
Although sexual reproduction is thought to have evolved at an earlier stage in the history of life on earth, Funisia represents the first evidence of this in a complex multi-cellular organism (Droser, Gehling, 2008). Its fossil remains are found as clustered groups of individuals of the same age. This is strikingly similar to the dispersal patterns of modern day corals that release drifts of reproductive cells (gametes) into the surrounding ocean. It is difficult to account for this form of dispersal other than by sexual reproduction.
Paleozoo models and animations are the work of paleoartist Bruce Currie