The Burgess Shale

Collinsovermis monstruosus

Collinsovermis monstruosus, holotype ROMIP 52703

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: NULL
Phylum: NULL
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Order Luolishaniida, Family Collinsovermidae
Species name: Collinsovermis monstruosus
Remarks:

Collinsovermis is one of a variety of lobopodian taxa from the Cambrian, which are early members of the lineage that gave rise to arthropods, and whose only modern survivors are onychophorans (velvet worms) and tardigrades (water bears). Lobopodians characteristically have annulated, unjointed bodies and bear soft limbs after which they are called: the lobopods. Collinsovermis is an armoured member of the Order Luolishaniida, along with forms such as Collinsium and Luolishania from China, or Acinocricus from Utah—together forming the family Collinsovermidae. Luolishaniids are characterized by their thin spines arranged in chevrons and the differentiation of their body into functional regions for suspension-feeding (Caron & Aria 2017, 2020).

Described by: Caron and Aria
Description date: 2020
Etymology:

Collinsovermis – Collins, patronymic, honours its discoverer, Desmond Collins, and vermis is Latin for worm.

monstruosus – From the Latin, in reference to the nickname ‘Collins’ monster’, first introduced by Delle Cave & Simonetta (1991).

Type Specimens: Holotype: ROMIP 52703, Paratypes: ROMIP 52704 and 52705 at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

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

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan stage, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone of the Burgess Shale Formation (approximately 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

Mount Stephen

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Collected by a Royal Ontario Museum expedition on Mount Stephen in 1983, the Collinsovermis animal was first revealed, unnamed and undescribed, in the non-peer-reviewed magazine Rotunda (former name of the Royal Ontario Museum Magazine), as a single picture of the holotype, with the caption: “What is it? This new spiny animal (4 cm) with hairy legs has a body plan that has not been seen before.” In 1991, Italian scientists Delle Cave and Simonetta (1991) provided a brief description of the taxon and attempted a reconstruction solely based on the photograph provided by Collins in the Rotunda magazine, coining it the “Collins’ monster”. Despite the lack of name and good documentation, the Collins’ monster have repeatedly featured in studies tackling lobopodian evolution and phylogeny (e.g., Ramsköld & Chen 1998; Budd 2001; Ou et al. 2011; Caron & Aria 2017). It was only in 2020 that the animal was formally named Collinsovermis monstruosus, in honour of Desmond Collins, and fully described based on high resolution pictures of all available material (Caron & Aria 2020).

Description:

Morphology:

Collinsovermis has a plump appearance, with an annulated, unjointed body divided into anterior and posterior regions. The entire dorsum of the body is covered in well-developed spines—three short pairs cover the first three somites (“body segments”) behind the head, while triads of longs spines cover the remaining 10 somites. The anterior region bears 6 pairs of elongate lobopods with thin spines arranged in chevrons, and a small head, as a protrusion bearing a pair of sensory filaments as well as a small dorsal plate and a frontal mouth. The posterior region is made ventrally of 8 pairs of stout annulated lobopods ending in strong, single claws.

Abundance:

Like other lobopodians, Collinsovermis is excessively rare. There are only 3 specimens known, all from the Collins Quarry on Mount Stephen (Fletcher & Collins 2003). They are housed at the Royal Ontario Museum, Department of Natural History.

Maximum Size:
32 mm.

Ecology:

Life habits: NULL
Feeding strategies: NULL
Ecological Interpretations:

Collinsovermis exemplifies suspension-feeding adaptations in lobopodians associated with strongly-developed defensive elements. Like other members of the order Luolishaniidae, and those of the family bearing its name, this animal was using its stout back limbs for anchoring (probably to sponges) and its slender spinose anterior limbs to sieve organic particles or plankton. The long dorsal spines most certainly served as deterrent to predators.

References:

  • BUDD, G. E. 2001. Tardigrades as ‘stem-group arthropods’: The evidence from the Cambrian fauna. Zoologischer Anzeiger, 240, 265–279.
  • CARON, J. and ARIA, C. 2020. The Collins’ monster, a spinous suspension‐feeding lobopodian from the Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia. Palaeontology, 63, 979–994.
  • CARON, J.-B. and ARIA, C. 2017. Cambrian suspension-feeding lobopodians and the early radiation of panarthropods. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 17, 29.
  • DELLE CAVE, L. and SIMONETTA, A. M. 1991. Early Palaeozoic arthropods and problems of arthropod phylogeny; with some notes on taxa of doubtful affinities. In S, S. A. M. C. M. (ed.) The Early Evolution of Metazoa and the Significance of Problematic Taxa. Proceedings of an International Symposium Held at the University of Camerino 27-31 March 1989, Cambridge University Press, 189–244 pp.
  • FLETCHER, T. P. and COLLINS, D. 2003. The Burgess Shale and associated Cambrian formations west of the Fossil Gully Fault Zone on Mount Stephen, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 40, 1823–1838.
  • OU, Q., LIU, J., SHU, D., HAN, J., ZHANG, Z., WAN, X. and LEI, Q. 2011. A rare onychophoran-like lobopodian from the lower Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte. Journal of Paleontology, 85, 587–594.
  • RAMSKÖLD, L. and CHEN, J. Y. 1998. Cambrian lobopodians: morphology and phylogeny. In EDGECOMBE, G. D. (ed.) Arthropod Fossils and Phylogeny, Columbia University Press, New York, 107–150 pp.
Other Links:

Sarotrocercus oblita

Reconstruction of Sarotrocercus oblita.

© MARIANNE COLLINS

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: NULL
Phylum: NULL
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Unranked clade (stem group arthropods)
Species name: Sarotrocercus oblita
Remarks:

The phylogenetic affinity of Sarotrocercus is uncertain because its morphology is too poorly known to make a definitive designation. Fryer (1998) suggested it was the most primitive of all arthropods, and it was placed within the Arachnomorpha by Cotton and Braddy (2004). Sarotrocercus has also been aligned with Megacheiran taxa such as Yohoia (e.g. Briggs and Fortey, 1989) and Leanchoilia (e.g., Wills et al. 1995; 1998).

Described by: Whittington
Description date: 1981
Etymology:

Sarotrocercus – from the Greek sarotes, “sweeper”, and kerkops, “a long tailed-monkey”, in reference to the feathery aspect of the tail.

oblita – from the Latin oblitus, “forgotten”, perhaps in reference to the fact that the few specimens of this species were described as part of another species.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM144890 (part) and UNSM 272171 (counterpart) 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:

The genus Sarotrocercus was erected by Harry Whittington in 1981 based on seven specimens originally included within Molaria spinifera (Simonetta and Delle Cave, 1975). No further research has been performed on the fossil material since then, although Sarotrocercus has been included in many studies of arthropod relationships (e.g. Briggs and Fortey, 1989; Wills et al., 1995; Fryer, 1998).

Description:

Morphology:

Sarotrocercus has an oval body consisting of a head shield and nine overlapping trunk segments; a cylindrical posterior segment carries a relatively short, narrow spine ending in a fan-shape cluster of small spikes. The whole animal was about 1.5 cm long. Although the head shield was not very strongly developed, it did bear a pair of large, stalked eyes that poked out from beneath the margin, and a pair of jointed appendages. Each of the nine body segments bore a pair of lobate appendages, with comb-like fringes which might have functioned as gills.

Abundance:

S. oblita is rare in the Burgess Shale. It was originally described on the basis of 7 specimens (Whittington, 1981), and 28 further specimens have been recovered from the Walcott Quarry representing less than 0.1% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
16 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: NULL
Feeding strategies: NULL
Ecological Interpretations:

The absence of walking limbs combined with an inferred flexibility of the body imply that the organism swam, probably in an inverted position, using its paddle-like appendages and long tail. Its rarity in the Burgess Shale suggests that it may have spent much time in the water column, thus avoiding submarine landslides that trapped animals living on the sea floor. The absence of sediment in its gut suggest that Sarotrocercus was a filter feeder (Briggs and Whittington, 1985; Whittington, 1981).

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 H. B. WHITTINGTON, 1985. Modes of life of arthropods from the Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Earth Sciences, 76(2-3): 149-160.

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

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, 94(03): 169-193.

FRYER, G. 1998. A defence of arthropod polyphyly, p. 23. In R. A. Fortey and R. H. Thomas (eds.), Arthropod relationships. Springer, London.

SIMONETTA, A. M. AND L. DELLE CAVE, 1975. The Cambrian non-trilobite arthropods from the Burgess shale of British Columbia: A study of their comparative morphology, taxonomy 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(1060): 329-357.

WILLS, M. A., D. E. G. BRIGGS, R. A. FORTEY AND M. WILKINSON, 1995. The significance of fossils in understanding arthropod evolution. Verhandlungen den deutschen zoologischen Gesellschaft, 88: 203-216.

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.

Other Links:

None