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Waputikia ramosa

A rare and delicate alga with fine ramifications

Image of Waputikia ramosa.

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Waputikia ramosa (USNM 35409) – Syntype. Typical specimen showing wide stem and fine terminal bush-like branches. Specimen length = 50 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light (left), wet – polarized light (right). Walcott Quarry.

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

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Plantae (algae)




Non applicable


No revisions of this alga have been published since its original description by Walcott (1919) and its affinities remain uncertain.

Species name:

Waputikia ramosa

Described by:


Description date:



Waputikia – from the Waputik Icefield, a glacier in Yoho National Park, east of the Burgess Shale.

ramosa – from the Latin ramosus, “full of branches,” in reference to the presence of clumps of branches.

Type Specimens:

Syntypes –USNM35409, 35410, 35411 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 Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

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History of Research

Brief history of research:

This genus was described by Charles Walcott (1919) as a possible red alga. However, like all the algae from the Burgess Shale, it awaits a modern redescription.

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Waputikia has a large central stem with wide branches at irregular intervals. The large branches divide dichotomously (into two), and the smaller tertiary or quaternary branches divide into much finer branches forming small terminal bush-like structures.


Waputikia is very rare and represents only 0.02% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum size:

60 mm

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Life habits:

Epibenthic, sessile

Feeding strategies:

Primary producer

Ecological Interpretations:

No attachment structure for this alga has been preserved but it probably lived attached to the sea floor.

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

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

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