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Pollingeria grandis

An enigmatic fossil originally interpreted as a scale of a worm

Image of Pollingeria grandis.

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Pollingeria grandis (GSC 8362). Slab with several specimens. Specimen length (largest) = 15 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Walcott Quarry.

© Geological Survey of Canada. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

Media 1 of 2 for Pollingeria grandis Photo
Media 2 of 2 for Pollingeria grandis Photo







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Pollingeria is one of the least understood Burgess Shale organisms, and its systematic status is unknown (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986).

Species name:

Pollingeria grandis

Described by:


Description date:



Pollingeria – from Mount Pollinger (2,816 m), northwest of the Burgess Shale. The name was given after Joseph Pollinger (1873-1943).

grandis – from the Latin grandis, “big, large,” in reference to the purported large size of the fossils.

Type Specimens:

Syntypes –USNM57639-57641 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.

Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

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Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).

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Principal localities:

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge and smaller sites on Mount Field and Mount Stephen.

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History of Research

Brief history of research:

Pollingeria was first described by Walcott in a 1911 monograph dealing with various Burgess Shale worms. Walcott interpreted these fossils as the individual scales of a larger organism resembling Wiwaxia. However, this interpretation was doubted (Conway Morris, 1979), and firmly rejected after the restudy of Wiwaxia (Conway Morris, 1985). The affinities of Pollingeria have remained difficult to establish (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986).

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The shape of this fossil is ovoid but variable in details and most individuals range from 10 to 15 mm in length. A distinctive feature is a series of narrow tubular elements that are darker and often slightly raised; these are twisted and contorted and do not appear to be parts of a gut.


Pollingeria is locally very abundant with hundreds of specimens on some bedding surfaces. In the Walcott Quarry this species represents 5.83% of the specimens counted in the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum size:

15 mm

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Life habits:


Feeding strategies:


Ecological Interpretations:

Not enough is known about this organism to interpret its ecology.

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BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND S. CONWAY MORRIS. 1986. Problematica from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia, p. 167-183. In A. Hoffman and M. H. Nitecki (eds.), Problematic fossil taxa (Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics No. 5). Oxford University Press & Clarendon Press, New York.

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. 1979. The Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian) fauna. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 10(1): 327-349.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1985. The Middle Cambrian metazoan Wiwaxia corrugata (Matthew) from the Burgess Shale and Ogygopsis Shale Shale, British Columbia, Canada. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 307:507-582.

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

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