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Wapkia grandis

Large elongate sponge with spicules arranged in plumose patterns

Image of Wapkia grandis.

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Wapkia grandis (ROM 61149). A couple of very large specimens preserved side by side (close up to the right). Specimen length (largest, partial) = 305 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light (left and right), dry – polarized light (middle). Walcott Quarry.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

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Taxonomy

Kingdom:

Animalia

Phylum:

Porifera

Class:

Demospongia (Order: Monaxonida)

Affinity:

Wapkia is considered a primitive demosponge (Rigby, 1986). Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.

Species name:

Wapkia grandis

Described by:

Walcott

Description date:

1920

Etymology:

Wapkia – origin of name is unknown

grandis – from the Latin grandis, “large.” This name refers to the large size and complex skeleton of this sponge.

Type Specimens:

Lectotype –USNM66458 (W. grandis), in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.

Holotype –ROM53544 (W. elongata), in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: W. elongata Rigby and Collins, 2004 from the Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen.

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 Quarry on Fossil Ridge. The Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen.

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History of Research

Brief history of research:

Wapkia was described by Walcott in his initial description of the Burgess Shale sponges in 1920. The genus was re-examined by Rigby in 1986. Rigby and Collins (2004) also redescribed the genus and proposed a new species, W. elongata.

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Description

Morphology:

Wapkia is a large elongate or oval sponge with bundles of coarse and fine spicules aligned in long vertical columns and distinct horizontal bundles. The surface of the sponge is smooth and lacks any vertical or horizontal ridges. Spicules are straight and pointed at both ends (oxeas). The exact position of the various bundles of spicules in the skeleton is still uncertain, but it seems that the inner part of the skeleton is reticulate with horizontal wrinkles that are typical of the species and produced by horizontal bundles of spicules. The dermal layer is formed by bundles of oxeas up to 60 mm long which give a characteristic plumose aspect to this sponge. W. elongata is distinguished from W. grandis based on the overall shape of the sponge and different skeletal structures (varying distance between the horizontal spicule bundles).

Abundance:

Wapkia is rare and represents only 0.06% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum size:

170 mm

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Ecology

Life habits:

Epibenthic, sessile

Feeding strategies:

Suspension feeder

Ecological Interpretations:

Wapkia would have lived attached to the sea floor. Particles of organic matter were extracted from the water as they passed through canals in the sponge’s wall.

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References

Bibliography:

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

RIGBY, J. K. 1986. Sponges of the Burgess shale (Middle Cambrian), British Columbia. Palaeontographica Canadiana, 2: 105 p.

RIGBY, J. K. AND D. COLLINS. 2004. Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and Stephen Formations, British Columbia. Royal Ontario Museum Contributions in Science (1): 155 p.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1920. Middle Cambrian Spongiae. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology IV. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(6): 261-365.

Other links:

None

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