A Caltech Library Service

Three-dimensional reconstructions of the putative metazoan Namapoikia show that it was a microbial construction

Mehra, Akshay and Watters, Wesley A. and Grotzinger, John P. and Maloof, Adam C. (2020) Three-dimensional reconstructions of the putative metazoan Namapoikia show that it was a microbial construction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117 (33). pp. 19760-19766. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC7443946. doi:10.1073/pnas.2009129117.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.

[img] PDF - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (MPEG) (Movie_S01) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (MPEG) (Movie_S02) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (MPEG) (Movie_S03) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (MPEG) (Movie_S04) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Strata from the Ediacaran Period (635 million to 538 million years ago [Ma]) contain several examples of enigmatic, putative shell-building metazoan fossils. These fossils may provide insight into the evolution and environmental impact of biomineralization on Earth, especially if their biological affinities and modern analogs can be identified. Recently, apparent morphological similarities with extant coralline demosponges have been used to assign a poriferan affinity to Namapoikia rietoogensis, a modular encrusting construction that is found growing between (and on) microbial buildups in Namibia. Here, we present three-dimensional reconstructions of Namapoikia that we use to assess the organism’s proposed affinity. Our morphological analyses, which comprise quantitative measurements of thickness, spacing, and connectivity, reveal that Namapoikia produced approximately millimeter-thick meandering and branching/merging sheets. We evaluate this reconstructed morphology in the context of poriferan biology and determine that Namapoikia likely is not a sponge-grade organism.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information ItemCode InPNAS : Commentary CentralArticle
Mehra, Akshay0000-0002-3966-1469
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Additional Information:© 2020 National Academy of Sciences. Published under the PNAS license. Edited by Andrew H. Knoll, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved June 23, 2020 (received for review May 12, 2020). PNAS first published August 3, 2020. We thank C. Husselmann for granting us access to Driedoornvlakte Farm. At the Geological Survey of Namibia, G. Schneider and J. Eiseb granted us permits for working in Namibia and assisted us with the export permitting process, respectively. At MIT, B. Ren performed grinding and imaging, and T. Mason created an early reconstruction, of sample B. All of Situ Studio, but especially B. Samuels, were instrumental in the development of GIRI. A. Tasistro Hart and R. Bartolucci provided invaluable assistance in the field. At the Smithsonian, M. Florence dedicated his time to help locate Inozoan specimens for study, while D. Erwin kindly gave permission to destructively analyze the A. perforata sample. R. Shapiro generously provided us with a sample of F. cooperi for reconstruction. Our morphological analyses benefited from discussions with A. Getraer, B. Howes, R. Manzuk, and E. Geyman. We thank J. Strauss for feedback on the manuscript and A. Knoll and two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful critique and input. This work was supported by NSF Earth Sciences Grant 1028768 to A. Maloof and by funding from the Princeton Tuttle Invertebrate Fund. All raw image data are available upon request. The computational source code used to process data in this paper is located in a public repository at Author contributions: A.M., W.A.W., J.P.G., and A.C.M. designed research; A.M. performed research; A.M. and A.C.M. analyzed data; and A.M. and A.C.M. wrote the paper. The authors declare no competing interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. Data deposition: The computational source code used in this paper is available in GitHub at This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Princeton UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:3D reconstruction; Ediacaran; early life
Issue or Number:33
PubMed Central ID:PMC7443946
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200804-071748120
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Three-dimensional reconstructions of the putative metazoan Namapoikia show that it was a microbial construction. Akshay Mehra, Wesley A. Watters, John P. Grotzinger, Adam C. Maloof. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2020, 117 (33) 19760-19766; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2009129117
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:104714
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:04 Aug 2020 14:42
Last Modified:09 Feb 2022 23:35

Repository Staff Only: item control page