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Pollingeria grandis

An enigmatic fossil originally interpreted as a scale of a worm

Image of Pollingeria grandis.

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Pollingeria grandis (USNM 57640-57641) – Syntypes. Left, plate 21 of Walcott (1911), showing a retouched image of the original specimens described as scales of a Wiwaxia-like worm (figures 8-9 – figure 7 is another syntype specimen, USNM 57639) together with complete and isolated elements of Wiwaxia corrugata (figures 1-4) and Banffia constricta (figures 5-6). Right, images of the same specimens on a single slab showing additional specimens. Specimen length (largest) = 15 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light (bottom). Walcott Quarry.

© Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of Natural History. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

Media 1 of 2 for Pollingeria grandis Photo
Media 2 of 2 for Pollingeria grandis Photo

Taxonomy

Kingdom:

Animalia

Phylum:

Unknown

Class:

Non applicable

Affinity:

Pollingeria is one of the least understood Burgess Shale organisms, and its systematic status is unknown (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986).

Species name:

Pollingeria grandis

Described by:

Walcott

Description date:

1911

Etymology:

Pollingeria – from Mount Pollinger (2,816 m), northwest of the Burgess Shale. The name was given after Joseph Pollinger (1873-1943).

grandis – from the Latin grandis, “big, large,” in reference to the purported large size of the fossils.

Type Specimens:

Syntypes –USNM57639-57641 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.

Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

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Age

Period:

Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).

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Localities

Principal localities:

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge and smaller sites on Mount Field and Mount Stephen.

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History of Research

Brief history of research:

Pollingeria was first described by Walcott in a 1911 monograph dealing with various Burgess Shale worms. Walcott interpreted these fossils as the individual scales of a larger organism resembling Wiwaxia. However, this interpretation was doubted (Conway Morris, 1979), and firmly rejected after the restudy of Wiwaxia (Conway Morris, 1985). The affinities of Pollingeria have remained difficult to establish (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986).

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Description

Morphology:

The shape of this fossil is ovoid but variable in details and most individuals range from 10 to 15 mm in length. A distinctive feature is a series of narrow tubular elements that are darker and often slightly raised; these are twisted and contorted and do not appear to be parts of a gut.

Abundance:

Pollingeria is locally very abundant with hundreds of specimens on some bedding surfaces. In the Walcott Quarry this species represents 5.83% of the specimens counted in the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum size:

15 mm

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Ecology

Life habits:

Unknown

Feeding strategies:

Unknown

Ecological Interpretations:

Not enough is known about this organism to interpret its ecology.

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References

Bibliography:

BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND S. CONWAY MORRIS. 1986. Problematica from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia, p. 167-183. In A. Hoffman and M. H. Nitecki (eds.), Problematic fossil taxa (Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics No. 5). Oxford University Press & Clarendon Press, New York.

CARON, J.-B. AND D. A. JACKSON. 2008. Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258: 222-256.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1979. The Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian) fauna. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 10(1): 327-349.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1985. The Middle Cambrian metazoan Wiwaxia corrugata (Matthew) from the Burgess Shale and Ogygopsis Shale Shale, British Columbia, Canada. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 307:507-582.

WALCOTT, C. 1911. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(5): 109-145.

Other links:

None

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