“Human beings as we know them are merely fractions, infinitesimally small fractions of one enormous whole. Every human being is linked with all the life that has preceded him on this planet. All of his ancestors are parts of him. Only time separates him from his forebears, and time is an illusion and does not exist.” The quote belongs to “The Hounds of Tindalos”, a short story, first published in the March 1929 issue of Weird Tales. The autor was American writer Frank Belknap Long (1901- 1994). He was one of H. P. Lovecraft’s close friends and contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos.
“The Hounds of Tindalos” (also mentioned by Lovecraft in his short story “The Whisperer in Darkness”, 1931) are strange creatures that exist in the angles of time (while human beings descended from the curves of time) in the extremely distant past. They can travel through time and space impelled by hunger or other evil purpose. Although they are represented as hounds, their appearance is a mass of incomprehensible shapes. Geometry is a powerful presence in the story of Frank Belknap Long. Halpin Chalmers, one of the main characters, reveres Einstein as “a priest of transcendental mathematics”, and the hounds could be a representation of fractal forms of life.
The diversity of shapes in the Ediacara biota (575–542 Ma) include some of the most enigmatic creatures in the fossil record. From discs to fronds, to segmented morphologies at least vaguely comparable with modern animals, alongside bizarre fractal constructions unknown in our modern world. Among them, rangeomorphs, with their fractal body plan, were the first substantially macroscopic organisms.
Rangeomorphs have been traditionally interpreted as sessile organisms that lived in deep- and shallow-marine depositional environments, and were ecologically analogous to sponges or anthozoan cnidarian. They are characterized by a broadly frond-like habit. The arrangement of their branches has been proposed as a basis for distinguishing between taxa. The group dominated the Ediacaran ecosystems and provided key insights into the early evolution of multicellular eukaryotes. But at the the beginning of the Cambrian period, the ecological and geochemical conditions where the rangeomorphs were optimized changed, and their extraordinary body plan was lost forever.
Long, Frank Belknap. “The Hounds of Tindalos” (1929). In Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (1st ed.)
G.M. Narbonne, The Ediacara Biota: Neoproterozoic origin of animals and their ecosystems, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 33 (2005), pp. 421-442 (1)
D.H. Erwin, M. Laflamme, S.M. Tweedt, E.A. Sperling, D. Pisani, K.J. Peterson, The Cambrian conundrum: early divergence and later ecological success in the early history of animals
Science, 334 (2011), DOI: 10.1126/science.1206375
N.J. Butterfield. Constructional and functional anatomy of Ediacaran rangeomorphs. Geological Magazine (2020) https://doi.org/10.1017/S0016756820000734