The Burgess Shale

Yohoia tenuis

3D animation of Yohoia tenuis.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade Megacheira? (stem group arthropods)
Remarks:

Yohoia was originally considered to be a branchiopod crustacean (Walcott, 1912; Simonetta, 1970), but was also described as being closely related to the chelicerates (Briggs and Fortey, 1989; Wills et al., 1998; Cotton and Braddy, 2004). Other analyses suggest that Yohoia belongs in the group of “great appendage” arthropods, the Megacheira, together with LeanchoiliaAlalcomenaeus and Isoxys (Hou and Bergström, 1997; Budd, 2002). The megacheirans have been suggested to either be stem-lineage chelicerates (Chen et al. 2004; Edgecombe, 2010), or stem-lineage euarthropods (Budd, 2002).

Species name: Yohoia tenuis
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1912
Etymology:

Yohoia – from the Yoho River, Lake, Pass, Glacier, Peak (2,760 m) and Park, British Columbia, Canada. “Yoho” is a Cree word expressing astonishment.

tenuis – from the Latin tenuis, “thin,” referring to its slender body.

Type Specimens: Lectoype –USNM57699 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, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Yohoia was first described by Walcott (1912), who designated the type species Y. tenuis based on six specimens, and a second species, Y. plena, based on one specimen. Additional specimens of Y. tenuis were described by Simonetta (1970), and a major redescription of Yohoia tenuis was then undertaken by Whittington (1974), based on over 400 specimens of this species. Whittington (1974) invalidated Y. plena, upgrading it to its own genus, Plenocaris plena, leaving Y. tenuis as the only species of YohoiaYohoia has since been included in several studies on arthropod phylogeny and evolution (e.g., Briggs and Fortey, 1989; Hou and Bergström, 1997; Wills et al., 1998; Budd, 2002; Chen et al., 2004; Cotton and Braddy, 2004).

Description:

Morphology:

The body of Yohoia consists of a head region encapsulated in a cephalic shield and 14 body segments, ending in a paddle-shaped telson. The dorsal head shield is roughly square and extends over the dorsal and lateral regions of the head. There is a pair of great appendages at the front of the head. Each appendage consists of two long, thin segments that bend like an elbow at their articulation, with four long spines at the tip. Three pairs of long, thin, segmented appendages project from beneath the head shield behind the great appendages.

The body behind the head consists of ten segments with tough plates, or tergites, that extend over the back and down the side of the animal, ending in backward-facing triangular points. The first of these body segments may have an appendage that is segmented and branches into two (biramous), with a segmented walking limb bearing a flap-like extension. The following nine body segments have only simple flap-shaped appendages fringed with short spines or setae. The next three body segments have no appendages, and the telson is a paddle-shaped plate with distal spines.

Abundance:

Over 700 specimens of Yohoia are known from the Walcott Quarry, comprising 1.3% of the specimens counted (Caron and Jackson, 2008) but only few specimens are known from the Raymond and Collins Quarries.

Maximum Size:
23 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Yohoia is thought to have used its three pairs of cephalic appendages, and possibly the biramous limb on the first body segment, to walk on the sea floor. The animal could also swim by waving the flap-like appendage on the body trunk. The setae on these appendages may have been used for respiration. The pair of frontal appendages were likely used to capture prey or scavenge food particles from the sea floor.

References:

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

BUDD, G. E. 2002. A palaeontological solution to the arthropod head problem. Nature, 417: 271-275.

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

CHEN, J. Y., D. WALOSZEK AND A. MAAS. 2004. A new ‘great-appendage’ arthropod from the Lower Cambrian of China and homology of chelicerate chelicerae and raptorial antero-ventral appendages. Lethaia, 37: 3-20.

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. 2010. Arthropod phylogeny: An overview from the perspectives of morphology, molecular data and the fossil record. Arthropod Structure and Development, 39: 74-87.

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

SIMONETTA, A. M. 1970. Studies on non trilobite arthropods of the Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian). Palaeontographia Italica, 66 (New series 36): 35-45.

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. 1974. Yohoia Walcott and Plenocaris n. gen. arthropods from the Burges

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

Selkirkia columbia

3D animation of Selkirkia columbia.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group priapulids)
Remarks:

Selkirkia has been compared to the nemathelminth worms (Maas et al., 2007), but most analyses support a relationship with the priapulids at a stem-group level (Harvey et al., 2010; Wills, 1998).

Species name: Selkirkia columbia
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911
Etymology:

Selkirkia – from the Selkirk Mountains, a mountain range in southeastern British Columbia.

columbia – from British Columbia, where the Burgess Shale is located.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM57624 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: The genus Selkirkia ranges from the Lower to the Middle Cambrian and is represented by several species, including S. sinica from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang Biota (Luo et al., 1999; Maas et al., 2007), S. pennsylvanica from the Lower Cambrian Kinzers Formation (Resser and Howell, 1938), Selkirkia sp. cf. and S. spencei from the Middle Cambrian Spence Shale of Utah (Resser, 1939; Conway Morris and Robison, 1986, 1988), and S. willoughbyi from the Middle Cambrian Marjum Formation of Utah (Conway Morris and Robison, 1986).

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, and smaller localities on Mount Field and Mount Odaray. The Trilobite Beds, the Collins Quarry, the Tulip Beds (S7) and smaller localities on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: The Middle Cambrian Spence Shale of Utah (Resser, 1939; Conway Morris and Robison, 1986, 1988).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Charles Walcott (1908) illustrated a single specimen of a simple tube that he named “Orthotheca major.” He interpreted the fossil as the tube of a polychaete worm, along with another famous species, “O. corrugata,” described by Matthew a decade earlier. O. corrugata is now referred to as Wiwaxia corrugata, which is not the tube of a worm but the scale of an armoured mollusc! The original specimen of “O. major” came from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen, but it was not until the discovery of complete specimens from Fossil Ridge showing soft-bodied worms within the tubes that more details about this animal became available. Walcott (1911) created a new genus name Selkirkia to accommodate the new fossil material. In addition to the type species, S. major, he named two new species, S. gracilis and S. fragilis. In a revision of Walcott’s collections and other fossils discovered by the Geological Survey of Canada, Conway Morris (1977) synonymised Walcott’s three species into one that he called S. columbia, which is still in use today. S. columbia was described as a primitive priapulid worm (Conway Morris, 1977); later studies showed that it belongs to the priapulid stem group (Wills, 1998; Harvey et al., 2010).

Description:

Morphology:

Selkirkia lived in a tube and could reach up to 6 centimetres in length. The body of the worm itself is similar to most priapulids in having a trunk (which remained in the tube) and an anterior mouthpart that could be inverted into the trunk, called a proboscis. The proboscis has different series of spines along its length and is radially symmetrical. Small body extensions called papillae are present along the anterior part of the trunk and probably helped in anchoring the trunk in the tube. The gut is straight and the anus is terminal. The unmineralized tube is slightly tapered, open at both ends, and bears fine transverse lineations.

Abundance:

Selkirkia is the most abundant priapulid in the Walcott Quarry community, representing 2.7% of the entire community (Caron and Jackson, 2008); thousands of specimens are known, mostly isolated tubes.

Maximum Size:
60 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The well developed proboscis and strong spines suggest a carnivorous feeding habit. Comparisons with modern tube-building priapulids suggest Selkirkia was capable of only limited movement, and spend most of the time buried vertically or at an angle to the sediment-water interface, where they might have “trap fed” on live prey. Empty tubes were often used as a substrate for other organisms to colonize, for example, brachiopods, sponges and primitive echinoderms (see Echmatocrinus).

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. 1977. Fossil priapulid worms. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 20: 1-95.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1986. Middle Cambrian priapulids and other soft-bodied fossils from Utah and Spain. The University of Kansas paleontological contributions, 117: 1-22.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. More soft-bodied animals and algae from the Middle Cambrian of Utah and British Columbia. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Paper, 122: 23-48.

HARVEY, T. H. P., X. DONG AND P. C. J. DONOGHUE. 2010. Are palaeoscolecids ancestral ecdysozoans? Evolution & Development, 12(2): 177-200.

LUO, H., S. HU, L. CHEN, S. ZHANG AND Y. TAO. 1999. Early Cambrian Chengjiang fauna from Kunming region, China. Yunnan Science and Technology Press, Kunming, 162 p.

MAAS, A., D. HUANG, J. CHEN, D. WALOSZEK AND A. BRAUN. 2007. Maotianshan-Shale nemathelminths – Morphology, biology, and the phylogeny of Nemathelminthes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 254(1-2): 288-306.

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

RESSER, C. E. 1939. The Spence Shale and its fauna. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 97(12):1-29.

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

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

WILLS, M. A. 1998. Cambrian and Recent disparity: the picture from priapulids. Paleobiology, 24(2): 177-199.

Other Links:

None

Opabinia regalis

3D animation of Opabinia regalis.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Dinocarida (Order: Radiodonta, stem group arthropods)
Remarks:

Opabinia is an anomalocaridid. Anomalocaridids have been variously regarded as basal stem-lineage euarthropods (e.g., Budd, 1996; Zhang and Briggs, 2007, Daley et al., 2009), basal members of the arthropod group Chelicerata (e.g., Chen et al., 2004), and as a sister group to the arthropods (e.g., Hou et al., 2006)

Species name: Opabinia regalis
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1912
Etymology:

Opabinia – from Opabin Pass (2,606 m) between Mount Hungabee and Mount Biddle in Yoho National Park. From the Stoney First Nation Nakoda word for “rocky,” a descriptive name for the pass given by Samuel Allen in 1894.

regalis – from the Latin regalis, “royal, or regal.”

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM57683 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 and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Opabinia regalis was first described by Walcott (1912) as the most primitive of all Burgess Shale arthropods. Owing to its unique morphology with a bizarre frontal “nozzle,” Opabinia became a flagship fossil for the Burgess Shale, leading to much speculation on its affinity and lifestyle. One famous reconstruction shows the animal swimming upside down as an anostracan crustacean (Hutchinson, 1930).

It wasn’t until the major redescription by Whittington (1975) that the morphology of Opabinia was revealed to be truly one of the most enigmatic of all fossils. It was so unusual, in fact, that when Whittington showed an early version of his reconstruction in a meeting of palaeontologists in 1972, the whole room burst out laughing!

Further work by Bergström (1986) identified similarities between Opabinia and the recently discovered whole-body specimens of Anomalocaris (Whittington and Briggs, 1985), and updated the morphology of the gills and frontal proboscis. Budd (1996) was the first to place Opabinia in the stem lineage of the euarthropods (just below the anomalocaridids), and also suggested the animal had trunk limbs, though this idea was contested by Zhang and Briggs (2007). The issue of whether Opabinia had trunk limbs remains controversial (Budd and Daley, 2011).

Description:

Morphology:

Opabinia has five eyes, a frontal “nozzle,” or proboscis, a body with serially repeated lateral lobes and gills, and a prominent tail fan. The whole body length ranges between 4.3 and 7.0 cm (excluding proboscis). The head has a rounded anterior margin, with five bulbous compound eyes on short stalks clustered on the dorsal surface of the head. The annulated frontal proboscis is four times longer than the head. It is highly flexible, and has a fused pair of appendages at the distal end, consisting of two opposing claws with five or six spines each. The mouth was ventral and faced to the rear.

The trunk was divided into 15 segments, each bearing a pair of lateral lobes in association with gill structures consisting of a series of lanceolate blades. There is some controversy as to the exact location of the gills (dorsal, ventral or posterior) relative to the lobes. The tail fan consists of three pairs of upward-directed flaps. The central region of the body shows an outline of the main body cavity, and a dark line representing a trace of the gut runs along the length of the body, starting with a U-shaped bend near the rearward opening ventral mouth. Paired spherical structures next to the alimentary canal could represent gut glands. There are also controversial triangular features in the central region of the body, which have alternatively been interpreted as lobopod-like walking limbs (Budd, 1996), or as undifferentiated diverticula or extensions of the gut (Whittington, 1975; Zhang and Briggs, 2007).

Abundance:

Opabinia is rare, with only 42 specimens known from all collections. In the Walcott Quarry, Opabinia represents only 0.006% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
101 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Opabinia was a swimmer. Undulatory waves along its lateral lobes propelled it forward, while it used its tail fan to steer. Opabinia probably employed the distal claws on its flexible nozzle to grasp soft food items and carry them towards its ventral mouth.

References:

BERGSTRÖM, J. 1986. Opabinia and Anomalocaris, unique Cambrian ‘arthropods.’ Lethaia, 19: 241-46.

BUDD, G.E. 1996: The morphology of Opabinia regalis and the reconstruction of the arthropod stem group. Lethaia, 29: 1-14.

BUDD, G.E. AND A. DALEY. 2011. The lobes and lobopods of Opabinia regalis from the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Lethaia, DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2011.00264.x.

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

HUTCHINSON, G.E. 1930. Restudy of some Burgess Shale fossils. Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum, 78: 1-11.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1912. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57: 145-228.

WHITTINGTON, H.B. 1975. The enigmatic animal Opabinia regalis, Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 271: 1-43.

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.

ZHANG, X.-G. AND D. E. G. BRIGGS. 2007: The nature and significance of the appendages of Opabinia from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Lethaia, 40: 161-173.

Other Links:

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

Olenoides serratus

3D animation of Olenoides serratus.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Trilobita (Order: Corynexochida)
Remarks:

Trilobites are extinct euarthropods, probably stem lineage representatives of the Mandibulata, which includes crustaceans, myriapods, and hexapods (Scholtz and Edgecombe, 2006).

Species name: Olenoides serratus
Described by: Rominger
Description date: 1887
Etymology:

Olenoides – from Olenus, in Greek mythology a man who, along with his wife Lethaea, was turned to stone. Olenus was used for a trilobite genus name in 1827; the suffix –oides(“resembling”) was added later.

serratus – from the Latin serratus, “saw-shaped,” probably referring to the spinose margin of the pygidium.

Type Specimens: Type status under review – UMMP 4882 (11 specimens), University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: Kootenia dawsoni; Kootenia burgessensis. (Species of Kooteniaare no longer considered different enough from those in Olenoides to warrant placement in a separate genus, but Kootenia is retained here for ease of reference to historical literature).

Other deposits: species of Olenoides are widespread in the Cambrian of North America and Greenland, and have been recorded in Siberia, China, and elsewhere.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds and other localities on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Olenoides serratus was among the first Burgess Shale animals to be named and described. The fossils used in Rominger’s original 1887 description were collected from the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds in 1886. Rominger coined the name Ogygia serrata for this trilobite, illustrating one complete specimen in accompanying engravings. Following several intermediate changes, the name now in use was first published by Kobayashi in 1935. Spectacular appendage-bearing specimens discovered during Walcott’s Fossil Ridge excavations in 1910-1911 brought Olenoides serratus (then called Neolenus serratus) attention worldwide as one of the most anatomically complete trilobites known. This iconic Burgess Shale species has been thoroughly redescribed by Harry Whittington (1975, 1980), who also concluded that Nathorstia transitans (named by Walcott in 1912) was a “soft shell” moult stage of Olenoides serratus.

Description:

Morphology:

Hard parts: adult dorsal exoskeletons may reach 9 cm long and are broadly oval in outline, with a semi-circular cephalon, a thorax of seven segments ending in spines, and a semi-circular pygidium with marginal spines. The cephalon, thorax and pygidium are of approximately equal length. The parallel-sided glabella is rounded in front and reaches almost to the anterior border. Thin eye ridges swing back from the front of the glabella to the small, outwardly-bowed eyes. The free cheeks narrow back into straight, slender genal spines reaching to the third pleurae. Tips of the pleurae also extend into needle-like spines. The spiny pygidium has six axial rings decreasing in size backwards; five pairs of marginal spines point rearward. The whole exoskeleton has a variably granulate outer surface with fine ridges and cusps near the margins.

Unmineralized anatomy: Olenoides serratus had a pair of flexible, multi-jointed cephalic “antennae.” Behind these, three pairs of biramous limbs were attached beneath the cephalon on either side of the mid-line. Each inner branch had a large spiny blade-shaped coxa and six spinose cylindrical podomeres that tapered away from the body, the last carrying three short “claws” at the tip. The outer limb branch was composed of many flat, overlapping filaments sweeping back from a long lobe, with a small oval, hair-fringed lobe at the outer end. Pairs of similar biramous appendages were attached under each thoracic segments; four to six pairs were attached under the pygidium, becoming shorter and more slender to the rear. Unique among all trilobites preserving limbs, Olenoides serratus also had a pair of antenna-like appendages (cerci; singular = cercus) emerging from under the pygidium behind the last biramous limbs.

Abundance:

Olenoides serratus is moderately common, especially at the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, where thousands of pieces and hundreds of partial to complete exoskeletons have been observed or collected. Olenoides is the largest and most conspicuous trilobite in the Walcott Quarry section on Fossil Ridge, where specimens with preserved appendages have been found.

Maximum Size:
90 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Adults of Olenoides serratus walked along the sea bed, possibly digging shallow furrows to locate small soft-bodied and weakly-shelled animals or carcasses. Prey items were shredded between the spiny limb bases and passed forward to the rear-facing mouth. Olenoides could probably swim just above sea bed for short distances. Some Olenoides fossils show unmistakable evidence of healed injuries, suggesting they may have been preyed upon, likely in their “soft-shell” growth phase, by larger arthropods such as Anomalocaris. Tiny larvae and early juveniles of Olenoides probably swam and drifted in the water column above the sea bed.

References:

KOBAYASHI, T. 1935. The Cambro-Ordovician formations and faunas of south Chosen. Paleontology, Part 3: Cambrian faunas of south Chosen with a special study on the Cambrian trilobite genera and families. Journal of the Faculty of Science, Imperial University of Tokyo, Section II. 4(2): 49-344.

RASETTI, F. 1951. Middle Cambrian stratigraphy and faunas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 116 (5): 1-277.

ROMINGER, C. 1887. Description of primordial fossils from Mount Stephens, N. W. Territory of Canada. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1887: 12-19.

SCHOLTZ, G. AND G. D. EDGECOMBE. 2006. The evolution of arthropod heads: reconciling morphological, developmental and palaeontological evidence. Development Genes and Evolution, 216: 395-415.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1912. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology, II. No. 6. – Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita, and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(6): 145-228.

WHITTINGTON, H. B. 1975. Trilobites with appendages from the Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Fossils and Strata, No. 4: 97-136.

WHITTINGTON, H. B. 1980. Exoskeleton, moult stage, appendage morphology, and habits of the Middle Cambrian trilobite Olenoides serratus. Palaeontology, 23: 171-204.

Other Links:

http://www.trilobites.info/ordcorynexochida.htm

http://www.trilobites.info/trilovent.htm

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

http://pakozoic.deviantart.com/art/Olenoides-serratus-3D-77550691

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