The Burgess Shale

Wiwaxia corrugata

3D animation of Wiwaxia corrugata grazing on Morania confluens.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade halwaxiids (stem group molluscs)
Remarks:

The relationship of Wiwaxia is hotly debated; its similarities to the molluscs have been highlighted (Conway Morris, 1985; Scheltema et al., 2003; Caron et al., 2006; Caron et al., 2007), but Matthew’s original view that it was related to the annelid worms (Matthew, 1899) still finds some adherents (Butterfield, 1990; Conway Morris and Peel, 1995; Butterfield, 2006; 2008). It is also possible that Wiwaxia branched off before the molluscs and annelids diverged (Eibye-Jacobsen, 2004). Wiwaxia has recently been placed in a group called the halwaxiids, along with the halkieriids, Orthrozanclus, and Odontogriphus (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Species name: Wiwaxia corrugata
Described by: Matthew
Description date: 1899
Etymology:

Wiwaxia – from Wiwaxy Peaks (2,703 m) in Yoho National Park. The word wiwaxy is originally from the Stoney First Nation Nakoda language, meaning “windy.”

corrugata – from the Latin corrugis, “folded, or wrinkled,” in reference to the wrinkled aspect of the sclerites.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM8596 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none described, although sclerites have been reported from a number of Middle Cambrian deposits extending from northern Canada (Butterfield, 1994) to China (Zhao et al., 1994).

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds, Tulip Beds (S7) and Collins Quarry on Mount Stephen. Additional smaller localities are known on Mount Field and Mount Odaray.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

In an early review of fossils collected from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen by Walker, Canadian palaeontologist G. F. Matthew (1899) described several forms he thought represented tubes of various annelid worms, including one he named Orthotheca corrugata. At the time, Matthew did not know this particular fossil was only part of a much larger organism. It was only when Walcott (1911) discovered articulated and much better preserved specimens from the Phyllopod Bed that the morphology of this species became clearer. Walcott placed corrugata in his new genus Wiwaxia and interpreted it as a polychaete annelid worm (Walcott, 1911). The single best specimen of Walker’s “Orthotheca corrugata” remained unrecognized until it was “rediscovered” in the ROM collections in 1977.

Walcott’s interpretation was called into question in a comprehensive reassessment of the genus (Conway Morris, 1985), and Conway Morris’s link between Wiwaxia mouthparts and the molluscan radula was built upon by Scheltema et al. (2003) and Caron et al. (2006). Butterfield (1990), however, defended an annelid affinity mostly based on the study of individual sclerites, first at the crown-, and later at the stem-group level (Butterfield, 2003; 2006), but further work suggested that the evidence does not conclusively support a close relationship with annelids (Eibye-Jacobsen, 2004). A connection with the halkieriids was drawn early on (Bengtson and Morris, 1984; Conway Morris and Peel, 1995), and expanded more recently (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Other studies have dealt more specifically with the ecology and taphonomy of this animal. The finely spaced patterning of ridges on the scale may have given Wiwaxia an iridescent aspect in life (Parker, 1998). Wiwaxia has proven useful in calculating the extent of decay in fossil assemblages (Caron and Jackson, 2006) and in reconstructing the longer term taphonomic processes responsible for the preservation of the Burgess Shale fossils (Butterfield et al., 2007).

Description:

Morphology:

Wiwaxia corrugata is a slug-like organism up to 5.5 cm in length almost entirely covered (except on the ventral surface) with an array of scale-like elements referred to as sclerites and spines. The body is roughly oval, and lacks evidence of segmentation. The body-covering sclerites are arranged in about 50 rows. In addition, two rows of 7–11 blade-like spines are present on the dorsal surface. Spines and sclerites were inserted directly into the body wall. Wiwaxia’s feeding apparatus consists of two (in rare cases three) toothed plates that have been compared to a molluscan radula or annelid jaws.

Abundance:

Wiwaxia is mostly known from the Walcott Quarry where it is relatively common, representing 0.9% of the specimens counted in the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
55 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The similarity of Wiwaxia’s feeding apparatus to that of Odontogriphus suggests that it too fed on the cyanobacterial Morania mats growing on the Cambrian sea floor. Its sclerite armour-plating and long spines, sometimes found broken, suggest that it was targeted by unidentified predators.

References:

BENGSTON, S. AND S. CONWAY MORRIS, 1984. A comparative study of Lower Cambrian Halkieria and Middle Cambrian Wiwaxia. Lethaia, 17:307-329.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 1990. A reassessment of the enigmatic Burgess Shale fossil Wiwaxia corrugata (Matthew) and its relationship to the polychaete Canadia spinosa Walcott. Paleobiology: 287-303.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 1994. Burgess Shale-type fossils from a Lower Cambrian shallow-shelf sequence in northwestern Canada. Nature, 369(6480): 477-479.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2003. Exceptional fossil preservation and the Cambrian Explosion. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43:166-177.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2006. Hooking some stem-group “worms”: fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 28: 1161-1166.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2008. An early Cambrian radula. Journal of Paleontology, 82(3): 543-554.

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., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN, 2006. A soft-bodied mollusc with radula from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Nature, 442(7099): 159-163.

CARON, J.-B., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN. 2007. Reply to Butterfield on stem-group “worms:” fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 29:200-202.

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(1134): 507-582.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND J.-B. CARON, 2007. Halwaxiids and the Early Evolution of the Lophotrochozoans. Science, 315(5816): 1255-1258.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND J. S. PEEL, 1995. Articulated halkieriids from the Lower Cambrian of North Greenland and their role in early protostome evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 347(1321): 305-358.

EIBYE-JACOBSEN, D. 2004. A reevaluation of Wiwaxia and the polychaetes of the Burgess Shale. Lethaia, 37(3): 317-335.

MATTHEW, G. F. 1899. Studies on Cambrian Faunas, No. 3. Upper Cambrian fauna, Mount Stephen, British Columbia. The trilobites and worms. Transactions of the Royal Society, 5: 39-66.

PARKER, A. R. 1998. Colour in Burgess Shale animals and the effect of light on evolution in the Cambrian. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265(1400): 967.

SCHELTEMA, A. H., K. KERTH AND A. M. KUZIRIAN, 2003. Original molluscan radula: Comparisons among Aplacophora, Polyplacophora, Gastropoda, and the Cambrian fossil Wiwaxia corrugata. Journal of Morphology, 257(2): 219-245.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(2): 109-144.

ZHAO, Y.-l., Y. QIAN AND X.-S. LI, 1994. Wiwaxia from Early-Middle Cambrian Kaili Formation in Taijiang, Guizhou. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 33:359-366.

Other Links:

http://www.paleobiology.si.edu/burgess/wiwaxia.html

Scenella amii

3D animation of Scenella amii.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group molluscs)
Remarks:

Scenella is generally classified as a monoplacophoran mollusc (Knight, 1952; Runnegar and Jell, 1976). A position possibly ancestral to brachiopods (Dzik, 2010), or within the Cnidaria, has also been proposed (Babcock and Robison, 1988; Yochelson and Gil Cid, 1984).

Species name: Scenella amii
Described by: Matthew
Description date: 1902
Etymology:

Scenella – from the Greek word skene, “tent, or shelter,” in reference to its shape.

amii – after Marc Henri Ami from the Geological Survey of Canada.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM8048 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none

Other deposits: Dozens of species are known from the Lower Cambrian to the Lower Ordovician.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds and smaller localities on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

The limpet-like appearance of Scenella led to its original classification as a mollusc, initially as a pteropod, then as a gastropod (Walcott, 1886). The first fossils of this genus known from the Burgess Shale were collected from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen. These were described as Metoptoma amii by Matthew (1902), but Walcott (1908) considered other specimens from the same locality (and from the Walcott Quarry) to belong to Scenella varians, an earlier named species. Resser (1938) recognized that both species were identical and proposed a new combination, Scenella amii. In the same publication, Resser named a second species from the Trilobite Beds S. columbiana; this was based on a single specimen, originally recognized as a brachiopod with possible spines (Walcott, 1912), and remains highly dubious.

Description:

Morphology:

Each cone-shaped fossil has the form of a flat disc with a central peak, here termed “shell.” Concentric rings surround this peak, and sometimes the shell is also corrugated. The shells are stretched along one axis, making them elliptical rather than circular.

The fossils are often preserved in dense clusters and are usually oriented point-up.

No soft tissue is ever found associated with Scenella. The shell was evidently mineralized as indicated by the three-dimensional preservation and the presence of small cracks suggesting brittleness.

Abundance:

Hundreds of specimens of S. amii are known in the Walcott Quarry (2.27% of the community, Caron and Jackson, 2008). Many of these are found in dense clusters on single slabs.

Maximum Size:
10 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

If a mollusc, Scenella would have been a creeping bottom-dweller, potentially a grazer.

References:

BABCOCK, L. E. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. Taxonomy and paleobiology of some Middle Cambrian Scenella (Cnidaria) and hyolithids (Mollusca) from western North America. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Paper, 121: 1-22.

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

DZIK, J. 2010. Brachiopod identity of the alleged monoplacophoran ancestors of cephalopods. Malacologia, 52:97-113.

KNIGHT, J. B. 1952. Primitive fossil gastropods and their bearing on gastropod evolution. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 117(13): 1–56.

MATTHEW, G. F. 1902. Notes on Cambrian Faunas: Cambrian Brachiopoda and Mollusca of Mt. Stephen, B.C. with the description of a new species of Metoptoma. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 4:107-112.

RASETTI, F. 1954. Internal shell structures in the Middle Cambrian gastropod Scenella and the problematic genus Stenothecoides. Journal of Paleontology, 28: 59-66.

RESSER, C. E. 1938. Fourth contribution to nomenclature of Cambrian fossils. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 97:1-43.

Runnegar, B. AND P. A. JELL. 1976. Australian Middle Cambrian molluscs and their bearing on early molluscan evolution. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, 1(2): 109-138.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1886. Second contribution to the studies on the Cambrian faunas of North America. Bulletin of the United States Geological Survey, (30): 11-356.

WALCOTT, C. 1908. Mount Stephen rocks and fossils. Canadian Alpine Journal, 1: 232-248.

WALCOTT, C. 1912. Cambrian Brachiopoda. United States Geological Survey Monograph, 51: Part 1: 1-872, Part 872: 871-363.

YOCHELSON, E. L. AND D. GIL CID. 1984. Reevaluation of the systematic position of Scenella. Lethaia, 17: 331-340.

Other Links:

None

Orthrozanclus reburrus

Taxonomy:

3D animation of Orthrozanclus reburrus.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Class: Unranked clade halwaxiids (stem group molluscs)
Remarks:

The classification of this animal remains ambiguous but is thought to belong to the halwaxiids, a group including Wiwaxia and halkierids (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007). Two alternative positions were proposed for the halwaxiids, as either stem-group lophotrochozoans (a group which includes molluscs, annelids, and brachiopods) or as stem-group molluscs (see also Sigwart and Sutton, 2007).

Species name: Orthrozanclus reburrus
Described by: Conway Morris and Caron
Description date: 2007
Etymology:

Orthrozanclus – from the Greek orthros, “dawn,” referring to its ancestral position, and zanclon, “sickle-like,” in reference to its long sclerites.

reburrus – from the Latin reburrus, “with bristling hair,” in reference to its hairy appearance.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM57197 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Two specimens were collected by Walcott but were never described. Between 1994 and 2000, the Royal Ontario Museum collected nine additional specimens from the Walcott Quarry. These were recognized as an unknown sclerite-bearing animal (Type C, Caron and Jackson 2006) allowing for a formal description of this new species (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Description:

Morphology:

Specimens vary from 6 mm to 11.3 mm in length. The ventral side is flat, whereas the dorsal surface is rounded in cross-section, bearing three zones of sclerites and one anterior shell. A set of relatively small sclerites is present around the margins of the body. These appear flat and slightly curved in one direction. Above this marginal set is a second set of much longer sclerites that seem to originate from a narrow zone along the entire length of the body. These are circular in cross section, appear to have a larger base, and tend to be curved and pointing upwards; they are probably hollow and bear one or two ridges. The presence of kinked sclerites suggests a lack of mineralization. A third set of much smaller sclerites covers the convex dorsal side of the body, but these are not clearly preserved. The shell, which was presumably mineralized, is triangular in outline with the pointed end towards the front. Fine striations along the shell are probably growth lines, indicating that growth occurred from the front to the back.

Abundance:

Very rare; all 11 known specimens come from the Walcott Quarry only, where it represents a tiny fraction of the community (0.02%) (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
11 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Orthrozanclus is similar in overall aspect and probably in ecology to the better known Wiwaxia corrugata.Orthrozanclus, like Wiwaxia, was probably herbivorous and would have crept along the seafloor in search for food.

References:

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. AND J.-B. CARON. 2007. Halwaxiids and the early evolution of the lophotrochozoans. Science, 315: 1255-1258.

SIGWART, J. D. AND M. D. SUTTON. 2007. Deep molluscan phylogeny: synthesis of palaeontological and neontological data. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274: 2413-2419.

Other Links:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/315/5816/1255

Odontogriphus omalus

3D animation of Odontogriphus omalus.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade halwaxiids (stem group molluscs)
Remarks:

Odontogriphus is an early stem-group mollusc (Caron et al., 2006; Sigwart and Sutton, 2007), or a stem-group to the lophotrochozoans, a group which includes molluscs, annelids, and brachiopods (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007). A relationship to annelids (Butterfield, 2006) has been suggested, but appears less likely (Caron et al., 2007).

Species name: Odontogriphus omalus
Described by: Conway Morris
Description date: 1976
Etymology:

Odontogriphus – from the Greek odontos, “tooth,” and griphos, “puzzle, or riddle,” in reference to its uncertain affinities.

omalus – from the Greek homalos, “flat,” in reference to the animal’s flattened shape.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM196169 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

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

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott collected the first specimen between 1909 and 1924 but it remained unstudied for more than half a century. Conway Morris “rediscovered” the part and counterpart of this specimen in different sections of the Walcott collection and described it in 1976 as Odontogriphus omalus. The affinities of Odontogriphus remained uncertain until the Royal Ontario Museum discovered 189 new specimens between 1990 and 2000, allowing for a thorough redescription of the animal (Caron et al., 2006).

Description:

Morphology:

This entirely soft-bodied animal is ovoid and dorsoventrally compressed, reaching up to 125 mm in length and 43 mm in width. The front and back are semicircular in outline and of similar size. The mouth is ventral with a radula composed of two primary tooth rows. A muscular foot extends from behind the mouth to the posterior part of the animal and is surrounded by gills (or ctenidia), except at the front. The dorsal surface is smooth and does not bear any shells, spines or plates. Internally, a large stomach is preserved with a narrow and straight intestine ending in a sub-terminal anus.

Abundance:

Most specimens come from the Walcott Quarry, where Odontogriphus represents 0.42% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008). A single specimen comes from Mount Stephen (S7 locality).

Maximum Size:
125 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The presence of a radula suggests that Odontogriphus was a grazer, using its teeth to rasp and ingest food. Locomotory waves within the large foot would have enabled the animal to crawl along the surface of the mud. Odontogriphus might have fed on benthic, sheet-like masses of the cyanobacterium Morania, since fossils of both are often found associated in the same layers.

References:

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2006. Hooking some stem-group “worms”: fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 28: 1161-1166.

CARON, J.-B., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN. 2006. A soft-bodied mollusc with radula from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Nature, 442: 159-163.

CARON, J.-B., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN. 2007. Reply to Butterfield on stem-group “worms:” fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 29: 200-202.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1976. A new Cambrian lophophorate from the Burgess Shale of British Columbia. Palaeontology, 19: 199-222.

SIGWART, J. D. AND M. D. SUTTON. 2007. Deep molluscan phylogeny: synthesis of palaeontological and neontological data. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274: 2413-2419.

Other Links:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7099/full/nature04894.html

Morania confluens

3D animation of Morania confluens (being grazed by Wiwaxia corrugata).

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Cyanophyceae (Order: Nostocales?)
Remarks:

Walcott (1919) considered Morania to be related to the modern cyanobacteria Nostoc. No revisions to the affinities of this cyanobacterium have been published since.

Species name: Morania confluens
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919
Etymology:

Morania – from Moraine Lake (1,885 m), in Banff National Park.

confluens – from the Latin fluere, “flow or stream,” and the prefix con, “together.” The name refers to the abundance of this species.

Type Specimens: Syntypes–USNM35378-35390, 35398 (M. confluens); USMN 35391, 35392 (M. costellifera);USNM35393 (M. elongata);USNM35394 (M. fragmenta);USNM35395 – 35397, 35401 (M.? globosa);USNM57718 (M. parasitica);USNM35402 (M.? reticulata) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: M. costellifera Walcott, 1919; M. elongata Walcott, 1919; M. fragmenta Walcott, 1919; M.? globosa Walcott, 1919; M. parasitica Walcott, 1919; M.? reticulata Walcott, 1919, all from the Walcott Quarry.

Other deposits: M.? antiqua Fenton and Fenton, 1937 from the middle Proterozoic Altyn Limestone of Montana and the Little Dal Group, Mackenzie Mountains (see Hofmann and Aitken, 1979).

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott described Morania, erecting eight species, in a 1919 paper along with Burgess Shale algae, comparing the genus to the extant cyanobacteria Nostoc. Walcott included thin sections and details of the microstructures of M. confluens showing that it was formed of tangled strings of pyrite. Satterthwait (1976) studied specimens of M. confluens from the Geological Survey of Canada collections as part of her PhD thesis and broadly agreed with Walcott’s original interpretations, in particular regarding a position within the Nostocaceae. Sattertwhait’s work has not been published but she suggested that many species erected by Walcott might not be valid and could represent parts of more complex algae. Mankiewicz (1992) re-observed Walcott’s thin sections and confirmed the presence of Morania in several samples. Rigby (1986) identified M.? frondosa Walcott 1919, as a sponge and reassigned it to a new genus (see Crumillospongia frondosa).

Description:

Morphology:

Morania ranges in shape from spherical to sheet-like. The sheet-like form M. confluens is by far the most common species. Specimens typically range in length between 1 to more than 13 centimeters. The sheets are characteristically perforated, with holes up to 3 centimeters in diameter. The shape, size, number and distribution of holes are highly variable. Thin sections show that the microstructure of M. confluens is represented by a tangle mass of filaments called trichomes. These filaments have a beadlike structure with little spheroids of pyrite ranging 3 to 7 micrometers in diameter, and originally interpreted by Walcott as defining cellular structures.

Abundance:

Estimating the abundance of Morania is difficult since some bedding planes have large tangled masses of this cyanobacterium, and many could represent fragments of the same colony. Morania is very common in the Walcott Quarry and represents 4.9% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
130 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Caron and Jackson (2006) suggested that Morania covered large areas of the benthos and might have provided a stable substrate and food source for benthic animals, in particular for a number of grazers, like Odontogriphus and Wiwaxia.

References:

CARON, J.-B. AND D. A. JACKSON. 2006. Taphonomy of the Greater Phyllopod Bed Community, Burgess Shale. Palaios, 21: 451-465.

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

HOFMANN, H. J. AND J. D. AITKEN. 1979. Precambrian biota from the Little Dal Group, Mackenzie Mountains, northwestern Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 16: 150-166.

MANKIEWICZ, C. 1992. Obruchevella and other microfossils in the Burgess Shale: preservation and affinity. Journal of Paleontology, 66(5): 717-729.

SATTERTHWAIT, D. F. 1976. Paleobiology and Paleoecology of Middle Cambrian Algae from Western North America. Unpublished PhD thesis, California, Los Angeles, 120 p.

WALCOTT, C. 1919. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology IV. Middle Cambrian Algae. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(5): 217-260.

Other Links:

None

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