Though they look like leaves, they actually were like modern sea-pens. They are animals that lived on the sea floor where photosynthesis cannot occur.
Charnia are named for England's Charnwood Forest, where they were first discovered in 1957. They are notable because they were the very first fossils ever discovered from the Precambrian period. Before that point, no one knew if there was life that long ago, or if any existing lifeforms could even meet suitable fossilization conditions.
There is still much to be learned about these ancient invertebrates, and their classification may yet change. For now, all we can postulate is that they live on the sea floor, possibly in deep sea water. No mouth part has been observed, so they were probably filter feeders.
Status : Extinct for 540 million years
Location : Fossils found in Europe, Canada
Size : Length up to 1m
Classification : Phylum : Petalonamae -- Genus : Charnia -- Species : C. masoni -Image : Smith609