The Burgess Shale

Wapkia grandis

3D animation of Wapkia elongata and other sponges (Choia ridleyiDiagoniella cyathiformisEiffelia globosaHazelia confertaPirania muricata, and Vauxia bellula) and Chancelloria eros a sponge-like form covered of star-shaped spines.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Demospongia (Order: Monaxonida)
Remarks:

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.

Age & Localities:

Period:
Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

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

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.

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

Ecology:

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.

References:

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

Sidneyia inexpectans

3D animation of Sidneyia inexpectans.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group arthropods)
Remarks:

Sidneyia is usually considered to be closely related to the chelicerates, but its exact position relative to this group remains unclear (Budd and Telford, 2009). Sidneyia has been variously placed as the sister group to the chelicerates (Hou and Bergström, 1997), close to the crown on the chelicerate stem lineage (Bruton, 1981; Edgecombe and Ramsköld, 1999; Hendricks and Lieberman, 2008), or basal in the chelicerate stem lineage (Briggs and Fortey, 1989; Wills et al., 1998; Cotton and Braddy, 2004).

Species name: Sidneyia inexpectans
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911
Etymology:

Sidneyia – after Walcott’s son Sidney, who discovered the first specimen in August of 1910.

inexpectans – from the Latin inexpectans, “unexpected,” since Walcott did not expect to find such a fossil in strata older than the Ordovician.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM57487 (S. inexpectans) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: A single specimen from the Chengjiang Fauna in China was used to describe a second species, Sidneyia sinica (Zhang et al. 2002), however this was later shown to be incorrectly attributed to Sidneyia (Briggs et al. 2008).

Age & Localities:

Period:
Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge, Mount Field and Mount Stephen – Tulip Beds (S7) and other smaller localities – Odaray Mountain and Stanley Glacier.

Other deposits: Sidneyia has been described from the Wheeler Formation (Briggs and Robison, 1984) and the Spence Shale (Briggs et al. 2008) in Utah, and the Kinzers Formation in Pennsylvania (Resser and Howell, 1938).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Sidneyia was the first fossil to be described by Walcott (1911) from the Burgess Shale. Further details were added by Walcott the following year (Walcott, 1912), and Strømer (1944) and Simonetta (1963) made minor revisions to Walcott’s reconstruction. A large appendage found in isolation was originally suggested to be the large frontal appendage of Sidneyia (Walcott, 1911), but this was later found to belong to the anomalocaridid Laggania (Whittington and Briggs, 1985). A major study by Bruton (1981) redescribed the species based on the hundreds of available specimens.

Description:

Morphology:

Sidneyia has a short, wide head shield that is convexly domed and roughly square. The two front lateral corners are notched to allow an antenna and a stalked eye to protrude. Other than the pair of antennae, which are long and thin with at least 20 segments, there are no cephalic appendages. The hemispherical and highly reflective eyes are above and posterior to the antennae.

The thorax of Sidneyia has nine wide, thin body segments that widen from the first to the fourth segment and then get progressively narrower posteriorly. The first four thoracic segments bear appendages with a large, spiny basal segment (the coxa) and 8 thinner segments, ending in a sharp claw. The next five thoracic appendages have a similar appendage but also have flap-like filaments in association with the limbs.

The abdomen consists of three circular rings that are much narrower than the thorax, with a terminal, triangular telson. The last segment of the abdomen has a pair of wide flaps that articulate with the telson to form a tail fan. A trace of the straight gut can be seen in some specimens extending from the anterior mouth to the anus on the telson, and pieces of broken trilobites are sometimes preserved in the gut.

Abundance:

Sidneyia is a relatively common arthropod in the Walcott Quarry, comprising 0.3% of the specimens counted (Caron and Jackson, 2008). Hundreds of specimens have been collected from the Walcott Quarry (Bruton, 1981) and in other nearby localities.

Maximum Size:
160 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Sidneyia walked and swam above the sea floor. Its anterior four thoracic appendages were used for walking, and the spiny basal coxa would crush food items and move them towards the mouth. The posterior five thoracic appendages were used for swimming, with the flap-like filaments undulating through the water column to create propulsion. These filaments were also likely used for breathing, like gills.

The predatory nature of Sidneyia is indicated by its spiny coxa used to masticate food, and the presence of crushed fossil debris in its gut. Sidneyia would have walked or swam above the sea floor, using its eyes and antennae to seek out prey, which it would capture and crush with its anterior appendages.

References:

BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND R. A. FORTEY. 1989. The early radiation and relationships of the major arthropod groups. Science, 246: 241-243.

BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1984. Exceptionally preserved non-trilobite arthropods and Anomalocaris from the Middle Cambrian of Utah. The University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, 111: 1-24.

BRIGGS, D. E. G., B. S. LIEBERMAN, J. R. HENDRICKS, S. L. HALGEDAHL AND R. D. JARRARD. 2008. Middle Cambrian arthropods from Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 82(2): 238-254.

BRUTON, D. L. 1981. The arthropod Sidneyia inexpectans, Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 295: 619-653.

BUDD, G. E. AND M. J. TELFORD. 2009. The origin and evolution of arthropods. Nature, 457(7231): 812-817.

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

CARON, J.-B., R. GAINES, G. MANGANO, M. STRENG, AND A. DALEY. 2010. A new Burgess Shale-type assemblage from the “thin” Stephen Formation of the Southern Canadian Rockies. Geology, 38: 811-814.

COTTON, T. J. AND S. J. BRADDY. 2004. The phylogeny of arachnomorph arthropods and the origin of the Chelicerata. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences, 94: 169-193.

EDGECOMBE, G. D. AND L. RAMSKÖLD. 1999. Relationships of Cambrian Arachnata and the systematic position of Trilobita. Jounral of Paleontology, 73: 263-287.

HENDRICKS , J. R. AND B. S. LIEBERMAN. 2008. Phylogenetic insights into the Cambrian radiation of arachnomorph arthropods. Journal of Paleontology, 82: 585-594.

HOU, X. AND J. BERGSTRÖM. 1997. Arthropods of the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, southwest China. Fossils and Strata, 45: 1-116.

RASSER, C. E. AND B. F. HOWELL. 1938. Lower Cambrian Olenellus zone of the Appalachians. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 49: 195-248.

SIMONETTA, A. M. 1963. Osservazioni sugli artropodi non trilobiti della Burgess Shale (Cambriano medio). II. Contributo: I Generai Sidneyia ed Amiella Walcott 1911. Monitore Zoologico Italiano, 70: 97-108.

STØMER, L. 1944. On the relationships and phylogeny of fossil and recent Arachnomorpha. Norsk Videnskaps-Akademi Skrifter I. Matematisk-Naturvidenskaplig Klasse, 5: 1-158.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911. Middle Cambrian Merostomata. Cambrian geology and paleontology II. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57: 17-40.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1912. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(6): 145-228.

WHITTINGTON, H. B. AND D. E. G. BRIGGS. 1985. The largest Cambrian animal, Anomalocaris, Burgess Shale, British-Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 309: 569-609.

WILLS, M. A., D. E. G. BRIGGS, R. A. FORTEY, M. WILKINSON AND P. H. A. SNEATH. 1998. An arthropod phylogeny based on fossil and recent taxa, pp. 33-105. In G. D. Edgecombe (ed.), Arthropod fossils and phylogeny. Columbia University Press, New York.

ZHU, X., H. JIAN AND S. DEGAN. 2002. New occurrence of the Burgess Shale arthropod Sidneyia in the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte (South China), and revision of the arthropod Urokodia. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, 26: 1-18.

Other Links:

http://paleobiology.si.edu/burgess/sidneyia.html

Marrella splendens

3D animation of Marrella splendens.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Marrellomorpha (Order: Marrellida, stem group arthropods)
Remarks:

The affinity of Marrella is still somewhat uncertain. It has been grouped together with the Devonian taxa Mimetaster and Vachonisia from the Hunsrück Shale to form the Class Marrellomorpha (Beurlen, 1934; Strømer, 1944), but the placement of this class in arthropod evolution is unclear. It has been suggested to be at the base of a group of Lamellipedian arthropods, including trilobites and trilobite-like taxa, (Hou and Bergström, 1997), but has also been placed in the most basal position in the upper stem lineage arthropods (Briggs and Fortey, 1989; Wills et al., 1998).

Species name: Marrella splendens
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1912
Etymology:

Marrella – after Dr. John Marr, palaeontologist at Cambridge University and friend of Walcott.

splendens – from the Latin splendens, “beautiful, or brilliant.”

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM57674 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none

Other deposits: Marrella sp. from the Kaili Biota of southwest China (Zhao et al., 2003).

Age & Localities:

Period:
Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. Smaller localities on Mount Field, the Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen and Mount Odaray.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Marrella was one of the first fossils found by Walcott, and sketches appear in his notebook as early as August 31st, 1909. Walcott informally named them “lace crabs” at the time. The next summer, on August 9, 1910, Walcott and son Stuart found the “lace crab beds” in situ, marking the discovery of the fossil-bearing beds of the Walcott Quarry of the Burgess Shale. Walcott (1912) formally described the “lace crabs” as Marrella splendens, but a reconstruction was not attempted until Raymond (1920).

Marrella was examined again by Simonetta (1962) and in a major study by Whittington (1971). New specimens collected by the Royal Ontario Museum allowed for the description of a specimen showing Marrella in the act of moulting (García-Bellido and Collins, 2004), and another re-description of the taxon (García-Bellido and Collins, 2006).

Description:

Morphology:

Marrella is a small arthropod with a wedge-shaped head shield bearing two pairs of prominent spines that project from the sides and posterodorsal margin and extend back along most of the length of the body. There is also a pair of smaller posteroventral spines. The head bears a pair of long, thin antennae with as many as 30 segments, and a pair of paddle-like appendages with six segments and numerous bushy setae along the edges.

Behind the head, the body consists of 26 segments that are small and subcircular, each bearing a pair of biramous appendages. The walking branch of this appendage has six segments, and the second branch is made of tapering gills with long, slim filaments that attach near the base of the legs. The last twelve body segments have conspicuous internal projections that form a net below the body.

The tail is minute and pointed. The stomach is located in the head near the ventral mouth, and the intestine stretches most of the length of the body. Dark stains found around the body are suggested to be the gut contents that were squeezed out during preservation. A small, triangular dorsal heart is located in the cephalic region and has arteries branching off from it.

Abundance:

Marrella is one of the most common species in the Burgess Shale. Over 25,000 specimens have been collected (García-Bellido and Collins, 2006), and it is the second most common arthropod species in Walcott Quarry, comprising 7.3% of the specimens counted (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
25 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Marrella was an active swimmer that moved just above the sea floor while deposit feeding. It could rest on the sea floor by standing on its body appendages. Swimming was achieved by undulating the second pair of paddle-like appendages on the head. Its antennae would be used to sense the environment and locate food items. The net of internal projections on the last twelve body segments would have been used to trap food particles located in water currents and to pass them along the underside of the animal. Food particles trapped in the net would be moved towards the mouth using the tips of the anterior legs.

References:

BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND R. A. FORTEY. 1989. The early radiation and relationships of the major arthropod groups. Science, 246: 241-243.

BRIGGS, D. E. G., B. S. LIEBERMAN, J. R. HENDRICKS, S. L. HALGEDAHL AND R. D. JARRARD. 2008. Middle Cambrian arthropods from Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 82(2): 238-254.

BEURLEN, K. 1934. Die Pygaspiden, eine neue Crustaceen – (Entomostraceen) – Gruppe aus den Mesosaurier führenden Iraty-Scichten Brasiliens. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 16: 122-138.

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

GARCÍA-BELLIDO, D. AND D. H. COLLINS. 2004. Moulting arthropod caught in the act. Nature, 429: 40.

GARCÍA-BELLIDO, D. AND D. H. COLLINS. 2006. A new study of Marrella splendens(Arthropoda, Marrellomorpha) from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 43: 721-742.

HOU, X. AND J. BERGSTRÖM. 1997. Arthropods of the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, southwest China. Fossils and Strata, 45: 1-116.

RAYMOND, P. E. 1920. The appendages, anatomy, and relationships of trilobites. Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 7: 1-169.

SIMONETTA, A. M. 1962. Note sugli artropodi non trilobiti della Burgess Shale, Cambriano Medio della Columbia Britannica (Canada). 1. contributo: 2. genere Marrella Walcott, 1912. Monitore Zoologico Italiano, 69: 172-185.

STØMER, L. 1944. On the relationships and phylogeny of fossil and recent Arachnomorpha. Norsk Videnskaps-Akademi Skrifter I. Matematisk-Naturvidenskaplig Klasse, 5: 1-158.

WALCOTT, C. 1912. Cambrian geology and paleontology II. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(6): 145-228.

WHITTINGTON, H. B. 1971. Redescription of Marrella splendens (Trilobitoidea) from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, British Columbia. Bulletin of the Geological Survey of Canada, 209: 1-24.

WILLS, M. A., D. E. G. BRIGGS, R. A. FORTEY, M. WILKINSON AND P. H. A. SNEATH. 1998. An arthropod phylogeny based on fossil and recent taxa, p. 33-105. In G. D. Edgecombe (ed.), Arthropod fossils and phylogeny. Columbia University Press, New York.

ZHAO, Y., J. YUAN, M. ZHU, X. YANG AND J. PENG. 2003. The occurrence of the genus Marrella (Trilobitoidea) in Asia. Progress in Natural Science, 13: 708-711.

Other Links:

http://paleobiology.si.edu/burgess/marrella.html