The Burgess Shale

Tokummia katalepsis

Tokummia katalepsis, paratype, ROMIP 63826

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Hymenocarines, Family Protocarididae (Miller 1889).
Species name: Tokummia katalepsis
Remarks:

Hymenocarines were early arthropods with bivalved carapaces and mandibles, forming the bulk of the first mandibulates (represented today by myriapods, crustaceans and insects) (Aria & Caron 2017; Vannier et al. 2018). Tokummia was a close relative of Branchiocaris, both grouped within the eponymous family Protocarididae Miller, 1889—one of the oldest formal taxa from the Burgess Shale. The relationship of Protocarididae within hymenocarines, as well as the relative placement of hymenocarines within early mandibulates is still under investigation (Aria 2022; Izquierdo-López & Caron 2022).

Described by: Aria and Caron
Description date: 2017
Etymology:

Tokummia — from Tokumm Creek, a river of the Kootenay area, in British Columbia, running through Marble Canyon, near the outcrop where the fossil was first found.

katalapsis — from the Greek, meaning “seizing, grasping,” by reference to the well-developed pincers of the animal.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 63823; paratypes ROMIP 63014, 63081, 63824–63827, 63736 (7 specimens), in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.
Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan Stage, upper part of the Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

The Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek areas of the Burgess Shale, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Tokummia was discovered during the original excavation of the Marble Canyon locality in 2012, along Yawunik and other taxa characteristic of this area. Additional specimens were later discovered during quarrying operations and along Tokumm Creek. Tokummia’s description was published in 2017: Tokummia’s size and quality of preservation helped identify mandibles and other diagnostic traits of mandibulates. Mandibles were also identified in Branchiocaris in the same study. This study partially rehabilitated original interpretations by Derek Briggs recognizing mandibulate affinities of Cambrian bivalved arthropods (hymenocarines) (Briggs 1992) but were not without their issues, notably that of the presence of an intercalary segment (e.g. Edgecombe 2017). However, research on hymenocarines has since been supportive of the mandibulate affinity of these arthropods (Vannier et al. 2018; Izquierdo-López & Caron 2022). Tokummia therefore remains central to our modern understanding of early arthropod evolution as a whole (Aria 2022).

Description:

Morphology:

Like other protocaridids, Tokummia’s long, tubular, multisegmented body is largely enclosed in a broad bivalved carapace with ample, lobate corners. Small processes are present medially at the front and rear of both valves. Eyes are very reduced or absent. The very front of the animal bears a bilobed organ covered by triangular sclerite. A pair of short, stout, multisegmented antennules are the most anterior appendages. The next pair of appendages are large, round mandibles, followed by modified appendages identified as maxillules and maxillae. The first pair of thoracic limbs are very large pincers projecting at the front of the animal, and therefore called maxillipeds. Trunk limbs are composed of well-developed walking legs ending in strong claws, and of lobate flaps that get much larger starting with trunk limb pair 9. There is a total of about 50 limb pairs in the trunk, one for each segment, which gradually decrease in size towards the back. Some tergites are fused at the back of the animal, forming a plate, and the tailpiece is a pair of caudal rami, typical of mandibulates.

Abundance:

The original description was based on 21 specimens (Aria & Caron 2017), but this count has so far doubled (Nanglu et al. 2020). Tokummia is a signature taxon of both the Marble Canyon quarry and the Tokumm sites.

Maximum Size:
About 15 cm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

The combination of large pincers and strong walking appendages in Tokummia suggests it was a nektobenthic predator. However, as in Branchiocaris and Protocaris, the absence of distinct eyes in the fossils, implying they were either very reduced or absent, indicates that the predatory lifestyle of Tokummia and other Protocarididae had its own specificity. Protocaridids either relied more heavily on their other sensory organs or were perhaps more passive predators.

References:

  • ARIA, C. 2022. The origin and early evolution of arthropods. Biological Reviews, 97, 1786–1809.
  • ARIA, C. and CARON, J. B. 2017. Burgess Shale fossils illustrate the origin of the mandibulate body plan. Nature, 545, 89–92.
  • BRIGGS, D. E. G. 1992. Phylogenetic significance of the Burgess Shale crustacean Canadaspis. Acta Zoologica, 73, 293–300.
  • EDGECOMBE, G. D. 2017. Palaeontology: The cause of jaws and claws. Current Biology, 27, R796–R815.
  • IZQUIERDO-LÓPEZ, A. and CARON, J.-B. 2022. The problematic Cambrian arthropod Tuzoia and the origin of mandibulates revisited. Royal Society Open Science, 9.
  • MILLER, S. A. 1889. North American geology and palaeontology for the use of amateurs, students and scientists. Western Methodist Book Concern, Cincinnati.
  • NANGLU, K., CARON, J.-B. and GAINES, R. R. 2020. The Burgess Shale paleocommunity with new insights from Marble Canyon, British Columbia. Paleobiology, 46, 58–81.
  • VANNIER, J., ARIA, C., TAYLOR, R. S. and CARON, J. B. 2018. Waptia fieldensis Walcott, a mandibulate arthropod from the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Royal Society Open Science, 5:172206.
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Titanokorys gainesi

Titanokorys gainesi, holotype ROMIP 65168

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Order Radiodonta, Family Hurdiidae
Species name: Titanokorys gainesi
Remarks:

With its single pair of jointed frontal appendages, lateral swimming flaps, and circular mouth structure, Titanokorys possesses all the hallmarks of Radiodonta, part of the stem group to the true arthropods which also includes the iconic Anomalocaris (Collins 1996). The frontal appendages with comb or rake-like inner spines are characteristic of the radiodont family Hurdiidae. Phylogenetic analysis has found it to be closely related to Cambroraster from the Burgess Shale and Zhenghecaris from the Chengjiang deposit, which share similarities in carapace shape and a large number of finely-spaced spines on the appendages (Caron and Moysiuk 2021).

Described by: Caron and Moysiuk
Description date: 2021
Etymology:

Titanokorys – from Titans, a group of powerful Greek deities of great sizes, in reference to the large size of the central carapace and from the Greek word Korys meaning helmet.

gainesi – after Robert R. Gaines, Professor of Geology at Pomona College, who was instrumental in the co-discovery of the Marble Canyon fossil deposit in 2012.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 65415; Paratypes ROMIP 65168, 65741, 65748, and 65749, at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None
Other deposits: None

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan Stage, upper part of the ‘thick’ Stephen Formation (Burgess Shale) (around 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

Marble Canyon and Mount Whymper / Tokumm Creek, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Several specimens of Titanokorys were discovered at the Marble Canyon and North Tokumm sites in Kootenay National Park in 2014 and 2018. Because of their distinctive shape, large size, and resemblance to the smaller Cambroraster (nicknamed “spaceship”), the head carapaces were nicknamed the “mothership.” The genus and species were formally described in 2021 (Caron and Moysiuk 2021).

Description:

Morphology:

The defining feature of Titanokorys gainesi is its large dorsal carapace. This is roughly elliptical in overall shape. Frontally this carapace has a small spine flanked by a pair of blunt lobes. The rear sides of the carapace are developed into short, wing-like projections. Each “wing” has a small spine along its inner margin. The rear central part of the carapace extends into a bilobate projection. Between the lateral “wings” and bilobate projection are notches that presumably accommodated the eyes. On the underside, the head is protected by two additional plates, shaped like elongate paddles and joined together at the front by their narrow ends, each of which bears a stout, downward-directed spine. All three plates are covered in longitudinal rows of small bumps. A circular, tooth-lined jaw and a pair of jointed frontal appendages with five long, curving, rake-like inner spines are located on the underside, near the front of the head. The body bears rows of stacked gill blades.

Abundance:

Titanokorys is rare in Kootenay National Park, being known from just twelve specimens. Only disarticulated frontal appendages, mouthparts, carapace elements, and gills are known.

Maximum Size:
About 500 mm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

Like other hurdiids, Titanokorys shows adaptations to sweep feeding. Specifically, the rake-like inner spines on its stout frontal appendages form a rigid basket-like apparatus of spines surrounding the mouth, which could have functioned to disturb the sediment, sift out burrowing organisms, and move them into the mouth for further processing. Compared to related hurdiids like Hurdia and Stanleycaris, the particularly finely-spaced, strong, hooked secondary spines on the inner spines could have enabled capture of minute benthic organisms, although larger prey may also have been consumed. As the largest animal known from the Marble Canyon and Tokumm communities, Titanokorys would have been at the top of the food chain. Titanokorys shared the environment with the slightly smaller Cambroraster, which probably employed a similar mode of feeding, although body size differences may have entailed distinct prey size niches (Moysiuk and Caron 2019; Caron and Moysiuk 2021). Respiration would have been accomplished primarily through the rows of gill blades on the body (Daley et al. 2013).

References:

  • CARON, J.-B. and MOYSIUK, J. 2021. A giant nektobenthic radiodont from the Burgess Shale and the significance of hurdiid carapace diversity. Royal Society Open Science, 8: 210664.
  • COLLINS, D. 1996. The “evolution” of Anomalocaris and its classification in the arthropod class Dinocarida (nov.) and order Radiodonta (nov.). Journal of Paleontology, 70: 280–293.
  • DALEY, A. C., BUDD, G. E. and CARON, J.-B. 2013. Morphology and systematics of the anomalocaridid arthropod Hurdia from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia and Utah. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 11: 743–787.
  • MOYSIUK, J. and CARON, J.-B. 2019. A new hurdiid radiodont from the Burgess Shale evinces the exploitation of Cambrian infaunal food sources. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286: 20191079.
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Surusicaris elegans

Surusicaris elegans, holotype ROMIP 62976. Specimen dry – direct light (left column), dry – polarized light (right column).

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Family Isoxyidae?
Species name: Surusicaris elegans
Remarks:

Surusicaris is a close relative of Isoxys, as indicated by the type of carapace, eyes, and frontal pair of raptorial appendages (Aria & Caron, 2015). The presence of spines on the dorsal side of the frontal appendage is a character shared with radiodontans, such as Anomalocaris. Current evidence draws out a consensus among authors placing isoxyids as sister taxa to true arthropods (Edgecombe, 2020; Aria, 2022), although it is not clear whether Surusicaris and Isoxys are part of a single separate lineage (that is, form a monophyletic group).

Described by: Aria and Caron
Description date: 2015
Etymology:

Surusicaris – After Surus, “the Syrian,” which would have been the last elephant of Hannibal, with broad shields covering its sides and missing a tusk.

elegans – Referring to the delicate, laced appearance of the limbs.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 62977, at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None
Other deposits: None

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan stage, upper part of the Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

Marble Canyon, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Along with Yawunik kootenayi (Aria, Caron & Gaines, 2015), Surusicaris elegans (Aria & Caron, 2015) is one of the first two new arthropods described from the Marble Canyon locality of the Burgess Shale. The original study was based on a single specimen from the original 2012 expedition. No other specimen has been confirmed so far, in the Burgess Shale or elsewhere. Surusicaris has remained a critical taxon in understanding the place of isoxyids in the transition to a euarthropod body plan (Fu et al., 2022; Aria, 2022).

Description:

Morphology:

Surusicaris elegans is about 15mm long and enclosed in a broad carapace made of two semi-circular valves, without spines. Only the posterior extremity of the body and tailpiece remain uncovered. The animal has a well-defined head composed of, at the front, a pair of large spherical eyes and a segmented predatory appendage, and, at the back of the head, under the carapace, three pairs of short limbs with a lobopod aspect. The frontal appendages show a complex ornament of spines on both the ventral and dorsal margins. The trunk limbs are clearly bipartite, forming two separate but similar branches. As for Isoxys, external segmentation of the trunk is not clearly visible. Inside the body, a bold, black trace runs alongside the gut and branches out inside one limb branch, showing similarities to hemolymphatic (“blood”) channels (Aria & Caron, 2015).

Abundance:

A single specimen from the Marble Canyon quarry.

Maximum Size:
About 15 mm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

The large lateral eyes and clawed frontal appendages suggest Surusicaris was an active predator, like its close relative Isoxys (Legg & Vannier, 2013). Trunk limbs lack strong functional modifications, but their lobate aspect in addition to their position underneath the carapace indicates that Surusicaris was mostly a swimmer (Aria & Caron, 2015). Although some authors implied a pelagic lifestyle (Vannier & Chen, 2000), isoxyids are commonly found among benthic/nektobenthic assemblages (Caron & Jackson, 2008) and possess general morphological characteristics of other nektobenthic Cambrian arthropods.

References:

  • Aria, C. (2022) The origin and early evolution of arthropods. Biological Reviews 97, 1786–1809.
  • Aria, C. & Caron, J.-B. (2015) Cephalic and limb anatomy of a new isoxyid from the Burgess Shale and the role of ‘stem bivalved arthropods’ in the disparity of the frontalmost appendage. PLoS ONE 10, e0124979.
  • Aria, C., Caron, J.-B. & Gaines, R. (2015) A large new leanchoiliid from the Burgess Shale and the influence of inapplicable states on stem arthropod phylogeny. Palaeontology 58, 629–660.
  • Caron, J.B. & Jackson, D.A. (2008) Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 258, 222–256.
  • Edgecombe, G.D. (2020) Arthropod origins: Integrating paleontological and molecular evidence. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 51, 1–25.
  • Fu, D., Legg, D.A., Daley, A.C., Budd, G.E., Wu, Y. & Zhang, X. (2022) The evolution of biramous appendages revealed by a carapace-bearing Cambrian arthropod. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 377, 20210034.
  • Legg, D.A. & Vannier, J. (2013) The affinities of the cosmopolitan arthropod Isoxys and its implications for the origin of arthropods. Lethaia 46, 540–550.
  • Vannier, J. & Chen, J.Y. (2000) The Early Cambrian colonization of pelagic niches exemplified by Isoxys (Arthropoda). Lethaia 33, 295–311.
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Misszhouia canadensis

Misszhouia canadensis, two specimens, ROMIP 65408

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Subphylum Artiopoda (Hou & Bergström 1997), Class Nektaspida (Raymond 1920), Family Naraoiidae (Walcott 1912).
Species name: Misszhouia canadensis
Remarks:

Artiopoda is the clade including trilobites and their non-biomineralized relatives. The placement of Artiopoda relative to other arthropod groups, and particularly extant lineages, has been the subject of a long and ongoing debate (e.g. Aria et al. 2015; Paterson 2020). Misszhouia is the closest relative of Naraoia, together forming the family Naraoiidae, typified notably by having both cephalon and trunk forming smooth, articulating shields. Naraoiidae could be derived taxa among artiopodans (Mayers et al. 2019), but the internal relationships of Artiopoda have been difficult to resolve and continue to remain at odds between phylogenetic studies (e.g. Lerosey-Aubril et al. 2017; Moysiuk & Caron 2019).

Described by: Mayers, Aria and Caron
Description date: 2018
Etymology:

Misszhouia — in honour of Miss Guiqing Zhou, fossil preparator and technical assistant to Prof. Junyuan Chen from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sinica, China.

canadensis — from being discovered in Canada.

Type Specimens: dsfsdfdsfdsfdasf
Other species:

Holotype ROMIP 64408; paratypes ROMIP 64411, 64438, 64450, 64451, 64509, 64510, 64511, in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan Stage, upper part of the Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old)
Principal localities:

The Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek areas of the Burgess Shale, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Chen and colleagues created the genus Misszhouia mostly based on the distinction that these individuals of “Naraoialongicaudata did not possess gut ramifications inside the head, compared to Naraoia species from the Chengjiang biota and Burgess Shale. The morphoanatomy and taxonomy of Naraoiidae from China were later thoroughly revised by Zhang and colleagues (2007). Misszhouia canadensis was one of the first taxa found on talus when the Marble Canyon outcrop was discovered in 2012 (Caron et al. 2014). Although these fossils do possess extensive digestive ramifications in the head, morphometric analyses of body shape showed that specimens from both Canada and China formed a genus distinct from Naraoia (Mayers et al. 2019). Morphometric data also allowed for the identification of putative sexual morphs (Zhang et al. 2007; Mayers et al. 2019).

Description:

Morphology:

As an artiopodan, Misszhouia possesses a flattened body divided into a circular cephalon and a trunk, a pair of sensory antennules, and robust walking limbs with masticatory gnathobases, oriented parallel to the ventral surface of the body. Both cephalon and trunk form single smooth shields articulating to one another. In the cephalon, the gut ramifies into extensive diverticula; it is completed by lateral extensions called caeca in the trunk. In addition to the frontal antennules, the head bears another three pairs of limbs. The trunk represents 65% of total body length, with at least 30 limb pairs. The appendages are likely similar to M. longicaudata, with an inner walking branch and an outer, rod-shaped respiratory branch bearing packed lamellae.

Abundance:

Misszhouia is relatively rare at the Marble Canyon Quarry proper, but can be common along Tokumm Creek sites (Mayers et al. 2019).

Maximum Size:
About 8 cm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

Misszhouia was construed to be a predator or scavenger based on the presence of long antennules and well-developed gnathobases (masticatory surfaces at the base of the limbs) (Chen et al. 1997). The absence of digestive ramifications in the head of the Burgess Shale species, compared to the one from Chengjiang, suggests either different diets or different frequencies of feeding (Mayers et al. 2019).

References:

  • ARIA, C., CARON, J.-B. and GAINES, R. 2015. A large new leanchoiliid from the Burgess Shale and the influence of inapplicable states on stem arthropod phylogeny. Palaeontology, 58, 629–660.
  • CARON, J.-B., GAINES, R. R., ARIA, C., MANGANO, M. G. and STRENG, M. 2014. A new phyllopod bed-like assemblage from the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies. Nature Communications, 5.
  • CHEN, J. Y., EDGECOMBE, G. D. and RAMSKÖLD, L. 1997. Morphological and ecological disparity in naraoiids (Arthropoda) from the Early Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, China. Records of the Austalian Museum, 49, 1–24.
  • HOU, X. G. and BERGSTRÖM, J. 1997. Arthropods of the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, southwest China. Fossils and Strata, 45, 1–116.
  • LEROSEY-AUBRIL, R., ZHU, X. and ORTEGA-HERNÁNDEZ, J. 2017. The Vicissicaudata revisited – insights from a new aglaspidid arthropod with caudal appendages from the Furongian of China. Scientific Reports, 7, Article number: 11117.
  • MAYERS, B., ARIA, C. and CARON, J. B. 2019. Three new naraoiid species from the Burgess Shale, with a morphometric and phylogenetic reinvestigation of Naraoiidae. Palaeontology, 62, 19–50.
  • MOYSIUK, J. and CARON, J. B. 2019. Burgess Shale fossils shed light on the agnostid problem. Proc Biol Sci, 286, 20182314.
  • PATERSON, J. R. 2020. The trouble with trilobites: classification, phylogeny and the cryptogenesis problem. Geological Magazine, 157, 35–46.
  • RAYMOND, P. E. 1920. The appendages, anatomy and relationships of trilobites. Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 7, 1–169.
  • WALCOTT, C. 1912. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(6), 145–228.
  • ZHANG, X. L., SHU, D. G. and ERWIN, D. H. 2007. Cambrian naraoiids (Arthropoda): morphology, ontogeny, systematics, and evolutionary relationships. Journal of Paleontology, 81, 1–52.
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Capinatator praetermissus

Capinatator praetermissus, ROMIP 64247

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: None
Species name: Capinatator praetermissus
Remarks:

Capinatator is considered an early chaetognath unrelated to modern forms (Briggs and Caron (2017), see also Vinther and Parry (2019)). Modern chaetognaths have traditionally been difficult to classify based on morphological characters, but thanks to progress in phylogenomic techniques, they are currently viewed as members of the Gnathifera, a clade of very small organisms with complex jaws (Marlétaz et al. 2019).

Described by: Briggs and Caron
Description date: 2017
Etymology:

Capinatator — from the Latin “capere,” which means “to grasp,” and the Latin “natator,” which means “swimmer.”

praetermissus — from the Latin “praeter,” which means “besides, beyond”, and “mittere” which means “to send away, to reach out”, referring to the fact that this fossil has long been overlooked.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 64271_1, at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None

Other deposits: None

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan stage, Burgess Shale Formation (around 505 million years old).
Principal localities:

Mount Stephen (Collins Quarry locality), Walcott Quarry, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Two separate species from the Burgess Shale have previously been regarded as chaetognaths, Amiskwia sagittiformis (Walcott 1911) and Oesia disjuncta (Szaniawski 2005). Since then, Amiskwia has been redescribed as a gnathiferan (Caron and Cheung 2019; Vinther and Parry 2019) and Oesia as a hemichordate (Nanglu et al. 2020). Conway Morris (2009) illustrated the first grasping spines of a Burgess Shale chaetognath from a specimen originally discovered by Walcott. Body fossils of Cambrian chaetognaths are extremely rare, with only a few specimens known from China likely representing just one species (Vannier et al. 2007). At the time Capinatator was published, another species was also described from China with a very similar arrangement of spines but with no evidence of the body except for traces of the head (Shu et al. 2017).

Description:

Morphology:

The body is divided into a large head, short neck, an elongate trunk, and a short tail. Lateral and terminal fins did not preserve; these are the first features to decay (Casenove et al. 2011). The head has about 50 simple grasping spines, 25 on each side of the mouth. The spines are claw-shaped and each one may have been reinforced at the tip by a conical structure. A gut trace are visible in some specimens.

Abundance:

49 specimens were initially described, but only 18 preserve evidence of the body.

Maximum Size:
About 9.5 cm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

Like modern species, Capinatator likely swam by undulating its body, using its caudal fin for propulsion and lateral fins for added maneuverability. The rarity of specimens preserved with the body suggests that this species did not normally live along the seafloor where it would have been subject to being entrapped by rapid mudflows. Instead, it is likely that Capinatator fed in the water column using its strong grasping spines to capture small swimming prey.

References:

  • BRIGGS, D. E. G. and CARON, J. B. 2017. A large Cambrian chaetognath with supernumerary grasping spines. Current Biology, 27, 2536-2543.e1.
  • CARON, J.-B. and CHEUNG, B. 2019. Amiskwia is a large Cambrian gnathiferan with complex gnathostomulid-like jaws. Communications Biology, 2, 164.
  • CASENOVE, D., OJI, T. and GOTO, T. 2011. Experimental Taphonomy of Benthic Chaetognaths: Implications for the Decay Process of Paleozoic Chaetognath Fossils. Paleontological Research, 15, 146-153, 8.
  • CONWAY MORRIS, S. 2009. The Burgess Shale animal Oesia is not a chaetognath: A reply to Szaniawski (2005). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 54, 175-179.
  • MARLÉTAZ, F., PEIJNENBURG, K. T. C. A., GOTO, T., SATOH, N. and ROKHSAR, D. S. 2019. A new spiralian phylogeny places the enigmatic arrow worms among gnathiferans. Current Biology, 29, 312-318.e3.
  • NANGLU, K., CARON, J.-B. and CAMERON, C. B. 2020. Cambrian tentaculate worms and the origin of the hemichordate body plan. Current Biology, 30, 4238-4244.e1.
  • SHU, D., CONWAY MORRIS, S., HAN, J., HOYAL CUTHILL, J. F., ZHANG, Z., CHENG, M. and HUANG, H. 2017. Multi-jawed chaetognaths from the Chengjiang Lagerstätte (Cambrian, Series 2, Stage 3) of Yunnan, China. Palaeontology, 60, 763-772.
  • SZANIAWSKI, H. 2005. Cambrian chaetognaths recognized in Burgess Shale fossils. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 50, 1-8.
  • VANNIER, J., STEINER, M., RENVOISÉ, E., HU, S. X. and CASANOVA, J. P. 2007. Early Cambrian origin of modern food webs: evidence from predator arrow worms. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274, 627-633.
  • VINTHER, J. and PARRY, L. A. 2019. Bilateral jaw elements in Amiskwia sagittiformis bridge the morphological gap between gnathiferans and chaetognaths. Current Biology, 29, 881-888.e1.
  • WALCOTT, C. 1911. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(5), 109-145.
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Cambroraster falcatus

Cambroraster falcatus, isolated H-element ROMIP 65316

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Order Radiodonta, Family Hurdiidae
Species name: Cambroraster falcatus
Remarks:

With its single pair of jointed frontal appendages, lateral swimming flaps, and circular mouth structure, Cambroraster possesses all the hallmarks of Radiodonta, part of the stem group to the true arthropods which also includes the iconic Anomalocaris (Collins 1996). The frontal appendages with comb or rake-like inner spines are characteristic of the radiodont family Hurdiidae. Phylogenetic analysis found it to be closely related to Titanokorys from the Burgess Shale and Zhenghecaris from the Chengjiang deposit, which share similarities in carapace shape and a large number of finely-spaced spines on the appendages (Caron and Moysiuk 2021).

Described by: Moysiuk and Caron
Description date: 2019
Etymology:

CambrorasterCambro, for Cambrian; raster, for the rake-like morphology of the inner spines on the frontal appendages.

falcatus – meaning sickle-shaped, but more specifically in reference to the dorsal carapace’s resemblance to the fictional Millennium Falcon starship in the Star Wars franchise.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 65078; Paratypes ROMIP 65079, 65081, 65083, 65084, 65092, at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None

Other deposits: Cambroraster sp. from the early Cambrian Chengjiang biota (Liu et al. 2020); Cambroraster cf. C. falcatus from the mid-Cambrian Mantou Formation of north China (Sun et al. 2020).

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan stage, Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

Marble Canyon and Mount Whymper / Tokumm Creek, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Several specimens of Cambroraster were discovered at the Marble Canyon and North Tokumm sites in Kootenay National Park in 2014. Because of their distinctive shape, the head carapaces were nicknamed the “spaceship.” Isolated frontal appendages were initially tentatively assigned to the genus Hurdia (Caron et al. 2014). The affinities of Cambroraster were not well-understood until further finds of abundant material at North Tokumm in 2018. The genus and species were formally described in 2019 (Moysiuk and Caron 2019). 3D digital modeling of an appendage of Cambroraster found it to have the lowest potential degree of appendage articulation of any of the studied radiodontans (de Vivo et al. 2021).

Description:

Morphology:

The defining feature of Cambroraster falcatus is its large, horseshoe-shaped dorsal carapace. This carapace is rounded frontally and projects along the rear sides into elongate wing-like projections lined along their margins with small spines. The rear central part of the carapace extends into a bilobate projection. Between the lateral “wings” and central projection are deep notches that accommodate the elliptical eyes, which are directed upwards. On the underside, the head is protected by two additional plates, shaped like elongate paddles and joined together at the front by their narrow ends. A circular, tooth-lined jaw and a pair of jointed frontal appendages with five long, curving, strong rake-like inner spines are located on the underside, near the front of the head. The body is stout, shorter than the dorsal carapace, and composed of 11 segments bearing rows of stacked gill blades and short lateral swimming flaps plus four short tail blades.

Abundance:

Cambroraster is abundant in Kootenay National Park, being known from over 100 specimens. It is particularly abundant around the North Tokumm locality, and may occur by the dozens on certain bedding planes, suggesting gregarious mass moulting behaviour. Rarer remains are known from Marble Canyon and single, isolated carapace fragments are known from Mount Stephen and Mount Field.

Maximum Size:
About 300 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

Like other hurdiids, Cambroraster shows adaptations to sweep feeding. Specifically, the stout and rigid frontal appendages are ill-suited to grasping large, mobile prey (de Vivo et al. 2021). Instead, the rake-like inner spines on the appendages form a rigid, basket-like apparatus of spines surrounding the mouth. Sideways movements of the appendages could have disturbed the sediment, sifting out burrowing organisms, and transferring them to the mouth for further processing (Moysiuk and Caron 2019). Compared to related hurdiids like Hurdia and Stanleycaris, the particularly numerous and finely-spaced, strong, hooked secondary spines on the inner spines could have enabled capture of minute benthic organisms, although larger prey may also have been consumed. As one of the largest animals in the Marble Canyon and Tokumm communities, Cambroraster would have been near the top of the food chain. The broad dorsal carapace, upward facing eyes, and stubby body suggest it spent most of its time near the sea floor (Moysiuk and Caron 2019). As in other radiodontans, swimming was facilitated by undulation of the lateral flaps while respiration would have been accomplished primarily through the rows of gill blades on the body (Usami 2006; Daley et al. 2013).

References:

  • CARON, J.-B. and MOYSIUK, J. 2021. A giant nektobenthic radiodont from the Burgess Shale and the significance of hurdiid carapace diversity. Royal Society Open Science, 8: 210664.
  • CARON, J.-B., GAINES, R. R., ARIA, C., MÁNGANO, M. G. and STRENG, M. 2014. A new phyllopod bed-like assemblage from the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies. Nature communications, 5: 1–6.
  • COLLINS, D. 1996. The “evolution” of Anomalocaris and its classification in the arthropod class Dinocarida (nov.) and order Radiodonta (nov.). Journal of Paleontology, 70: 280–293.
  • DALEY, A. C., BUDD, G. E. and CARON, J.-B. 2013. Morphology and systematics of the anomalocaridid arthropod Hurdia from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia and Utah. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 11: 743–787.
  • LIU, Y., LEROSEY-AUBRIL, R., AUDO, D., ZHAI, D., MAI, H. and ORTEGA-HERNÁNDEZ, J. 2020. Occurrence of the eudemersal radiodont Cambroraster in the early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte and the diversity of hurdiid ecomorphotypes. Geological Magazine, 157: 1200–1206.
  • MOYSIUK, J. and CARON, J.-B. 2019. A new hurdiid radiodont from the Burgess Shale evinces the exploitation of Cambrian infaunal food sources. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286: 20191079.
  • SUN, Z., ZENG, H. and ZHAO, F. 2020. Occurrence of the hurdiid radiodont Cambroraster in the middle Cambrian (Wuliuan) Mantou Formation of North China. Journal of Paleontology, 94: 881–886.
  • USAMI, Y. 2006. Theoretical study on the body form and swimming pattern of Anomalocaris based on hydrodynamic simulation. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 238: 11–17.
  • DE VIVO, G., LAUTENSCHLAGER, S. and VINTHER, J. 2021. Three-dimensional modelling, disparity and ecology of the first Cambrian apex predators. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 288.
Other Links:

Nectocaris pteryx

3D animation of Nectocaris pteryx.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Cephalopoda (stem group molluscs)
Species name: Nectocaris pteryx
Remarks:

Nectocaris is regarded as an early stem-group mollusc close to the cephalopods. This stem-group also includes Vetustovermis from the Middle Cambrian Emu Bay Shale of Australia, and the Lower Cambrian Petalilium from the Chengjiang deposit in China (Smith and Caron, 2010).

Described by: Conway Morris
Description date: 1976
Etymology:

Nectocaris – from the Greek nekto, “swimming,” and the Latin caris, “shrimp,” based on its original interpretation as an arthropod.

pteryx – from the Greek pteryx, “fins,” in reference to the presence of fins.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM198667 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

As with Odontogriphus, another Burgess Shale animal related to molluscs, Walcott collected the first specimen of Nectocaris between 1909 and 1924. The fossil was photographed by Walcott, and its print sat with the unidentified specimen in the Smithsonian collections until noticed and described by Simon Conway Morris in 1976. Due to the lateral compression of the fossil, his resulting reconstruction was laterally-oriented. The funnel, bent back over the front, resembled the head-shield of an arthropod, and yet the fin, folded along the top of the organism, looked much like the ray-bearing dorsal fin of a chordate. A chordate affinity was further suggested by the myomere-like appearance of the bars, and although Conway Morris did not offer a firm diagnosis, Simonetta (1988) promoted a chordate status (Insom et al., 1995).

Meanwhile, Glaessner had described Vetustovermis, based on an ill-preserved specimen from Australia’s Emu Bay Shale, and because of its segmented appearance he suggested an affinity with annelid worms (Glaessner, 1979). Other workers noted the similarity of some Chengjiang fossils to this specimen and described them as slug-like relatives of the molluscs (Chen et al., 2005). During this period, the Royal Ontario Museum had been collecting similar fossils, which Desmond Collins recognized as representatives of Nectocaris. These were eventually described as stem-group cephalopods (Smith and Caron, 2010). The relationships among members of this clade are difficult to determine, and it may require further fossil finds to establish their diversity and range. The absence of a shell in Nectocarisindicates that cephalopods, which were previously thought to have evolved later in the Cambrian from snail-like monoplacophorans, did not require a buoyant shell to start swimming, but derived their shell independently of other mollusc lineages.

Description:

Morphology:

The body of Nectocaris is kite-shaped and can reach up to 72 mm in length, including two flexible tentacles that extend forwards from the head, which also bears a pair of camera-type eyes on short stalks. A long, nozzle-like funnel originates under the base of the head. The main body has wide lateral fins with transverse bars; a large axial cavity contains paired gills.

Abundance:

Nectocaris is known from 90 specimens on Fossil Ridge, mostly from the Collins Quarry; it is rare or absent at most other Burgess Shale localities. Only two specimens, including the holotype, have been found in the Walcott Quarry.

Maximum Size:
72 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

A free-swimming predator or scavenger, Nectocaris would have fed on small prey items with its prehensile tentacles in a similar fashion to squid today. Its primary mode of propulsion would have been in the flexing of its fins; it may have supplemented this by squirting water from its funnel. The funnel was also used to inhale and exhale water, which entered the animal’s body cavity to oxygenate the large internal gills.

References:

CHEN, J.-Y., D.-Y. HUANG AND D. J. BOTTJER. 2005. An Early Cambrian problematic fossil: Vetustovermis and its possible affinities. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272(1576): 2003-2007.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1976. Nectocaris pteryx, a new organism from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte, 12: 703-713.

GLAESSNER, M. F. 1979. Lower Cambrian Crustacea and annelid worms from Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Alcheringa, 3(1): 21-31.

INSOM, E. A. PUCCI AND A. M. SIMONETTA. 1995. Cambrian Protochordata, their origin and significance. Bollettino di Zoologia, 62(3): 243-252.

SIMONETTA, A. M. 1988. Is Nectocaris pteryx a chordate? Bollettino di Zoologia, 55(1-2): 63-68.

SMITH, M. AND J.-B. CARON. 2010. Primitive soft-bodied cephalopods from the Cambrian. Nature, 465: 469-472.

Other Links:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7297/full/nature09068.html

Morania confluens

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

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Cyanophyceae (Order: Nostocales?)
Species name: Morania confluens
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.

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:

Age:
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:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
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

Actaeus armatus

Actaeus armatus (USNM 155597) – Holotype. Complete specimen shown in dorsal oblique view. Specimen length = 66 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light (left), wet – direct light (right). Walcott Quarry.

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

 

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Unranked clade Megacheira? (stem group arthropods)
Species name: Actaeus armatus
Remarks:

Megacheirans are basal true arthropods with a frontal appendage pointing upward and made of multiple claws (the cheira, or “great appendage”). Actaeus and other leanchoiliidae characteristically also bear long filaments on their frontal appendages, called flagellae, and most likely used as sensory devices. Megacheirans are generally considered to be among the first true arthropods (that is, arthropods with both articulated bodies and appendages), and possibly the earliest representatives of the extended chelicerate lineage (Aria, 2022). Relationships within Leanchoiliidae remain largely unresolved.

Described by: Simonetta
Description date: 1970
Etymology:

Actaeus – from the Greek Actaeus, “of the coast”; the first king of Attica, referring to both the antiquity of the genus and, according to Simonetta, the “shallow coastal waters” where the Burgess Shale sediments came from.

armatus – from the Latin armatus, “armored, or armed,” evocating the grasping appendages.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM155597 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

Age:
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:

Simonetta (1970) described this organism on the basis of a single specimen originally collected by Walcott. Simonetta and Delle Cave (1975) provided the first reconstruction of this animal in a general monograph about Burgess Shale arthropods. The taxon was redescribed by Whittington (1981), and compared to Leanchoilia (Bruton and Whittington, 1983). Although a restudy has been lacking to this date, Actaeus has featured in studies discussing the significance of leanchoiliid morphology (Aria, Caron & Gaines, 2015; Aria et al., 2023).

Description:

Morphology:

Actaeus was a relatively large predator. The body is wide and lacks any biomineralization. Like other leanchoiliid megacheirans, it is characterized by flagellate frontal appendages (cheirae) made of three long claws, and a body divided into two regions (tagmata): the cephalon, covered by a single shield, and the segmented trunk. At the front of the head, leanchoiliids bore a pair of large short-stalked lateral eyes and a pair of smaller, mushroom-shaped median eyes—although the presence of these median eyes in Actaeus is unclear. The megacheiran appendages were of similar simple morphology throughout the body, reflecting the typical arthropod biramous limb: sub-cylindrical basis with teeth for mastication (basipod), relatively strong walking legs (endopods), and paddle-like, semi-rigid flaps (exopods) fringed with lamellae, which in Actaeus are particularly stout. The trunk was composed of about 10 segments. The tail is a single element called a telson, which appears spatulate.

Abundance:

A single specimen is known of this species.

Maximum Size:
6.6 cm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
Ecological Interpretations:

Like other leanchoiliid megacheirans, Actaeus must have used its combined sensing and grasping frontal appendages to detect and catch prey items. Food caught was brought under the body where it might have been rudimentarily masticated between the bases of limbs (basipods), before being channeled back to the mouth. As a leanchoiliid, Actaeus also had large digestive glands atop its gut, suggesting it was either storing food for extended periods of time, or compensating rough mastication with additional enzymes. The megacheiran body appendages, made of relatively strong walking legs (endopods) as well as paddle-like, semi-rigid flaps (exopods), would have allowed for both comfortable locomotion on the sea floor and swimming. The exopods likely served for gas exchanges (like breathing) as well, but recent studies also showed that megacheirans and other Cambrian arthropods possessed dedicated gills (Liu et al., 2021).

References:

  • Aria, C., Caron, J.-B. & Gaines, R. (2015) A large new leanchoiliid from the Burgess Shale and the influence of inapplicable states on stem arthropod phylogeny. Palaeontology 58, 629–660.
  • Aria, C., Vannier, J., Park, T.S. & Gaines, R.R. (2023) Interpreting fossilized nervous tissues. BioEssays, 2200167.
  • Bruton, D.L. & Whittington, H.B. (1983) Emeraldella and Leanchoilia, two arthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B 300, 553–582.
  • Caron, J.B. & Jackson, D.A. (2008) Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 258, 222–256.
  • Liu, Y., Edgecombe, G.D., Schmidt, M., Bond, A.D., Melzer, R.R., Zhai, D., Mai, H., Zhang, M. & Hou, X. (2021) Exites in Cambrian arthropods and homology of arthropod limb branches. Nature Communications 12, 4619.
  • Simonetta, A.M. (1970) Studies on non trilobite arthropods of the Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian). Palaeontographia Italica 66 (New series 36), 35–45.
  • Simonetta, A.M. & Delle Cave, L. (1975) The Cambrian non trilobite arthropods from the Burgess Shale of British Columbia. A study of their comparative morphology taxinomy and evolutionary significance. Palaeontographia Italica 69, 1–37.
  • Whittington, H.B. (1981) Rare arthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 292, 329–357.
Other Links:

None

Marrella splendens

3D animation of Marrella splendens.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Predators
Phylum: Predators
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Marrellomorpha (Order: Marrellida, stem group arthropods)
Species name: Marrella splendens
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).

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:

Age:
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:

Life habits: Predators
Feeding strategies: Predators
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