The Burgess Shale

Spartobranchus tenuis

Spartobranchus tenuis, ROMIP 65137

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Enteropneusta
Species name: Spartobranchus tenuis
Remarks:

Spartobranchus is considered a stem-group enteropneust (acorn worm), and shares many similarities with modern acorn worms (Caron et al. 2013; Nanglu et al. 2020). It shows the tripartite body characteristic of this group, consisting of an acorn-shaped proboscis, cylindrical collar, and elongate trunk.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911 (redescribed in 2013)
Etymology:

Spartobranchus — from the Greek “sparte,” for cord or rope (made from the Spartium shrub), and “brankhia” for gills.

tenuis — from the Latin, meaning thin or delicate.

Type Specimens: USNM 108494; Paralectotype – USNM 553526.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None
Other deposits: None

Age & Localities:

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

Walcott Quarry

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Spartobranchus tenuis was first reported by Walcott in 1911 as a priapulid worm named Ottoia tenuis. It was removed from the genus Ottoia by Conway Morris in 1979, and formally redescribed as Spartobranchus tenuis, an acorn worm, by Caron et al. in 2013.

Description:

Morphology:

Spartobanchus is a small worm with a maximum length of 10 cm. The three major components of its body are a proboscis, a collar, and a long, thin section called the trunk. The proboscis is oval or “acorn” shaped, hence the common name of the group: acorn worms. The trunk is a relatively short cylindrical section behind the proboscis. The trunk comprises roughly 90%-95% of the total body length of the animal. The entire body is highly flexible, with the trunk often being recurved onto itself. The anterior part of the trunk is known as the pharynx. Inside the pharynx are presumably collagenous bars known as gill bars, which give the pharynx a strongly striated appearance. The posterior part of the trunk is where the gut is located and is relatively featureless. It is often preserved darkly compared to the rest of the body. At the most posterior end of the trunk is a bulbous structure, which may have served as an anchor for the animal. Roughly one quarter of Spartobranchus specimens are found associated with fibrous, collagenous tubes that the worms produced. These tubes have a corrugated appearance, and can take many forms including: straight tubes, forked, spiral, and circular.

Abundance:

More than 9000 specimens, making it one of the most abundant species in the Walcott Quarry.

Maximum Size:
About 10 cm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

Spartobranchus was likely a deposit feeder, as this is the most common mode of life of extant acorn worms that are morphologically highly similar. The presence of a pre-oral ciliary organ on the proboscis also suggests that food particles were transported from the proboscis to the mouth. It may have also been able to filter feed, given the ability of some burrowing hemichordates to draw in food from interstitial water. The tubes Spartobranchus is associated with would have served as a protective dwelling and were secreted by the proboscis. These worms shared this trait with their close relatives, the graptolites. Some large tubes from the Raymond Quarry (located roughly 20m above the Walcott Quarry) appear to also contain undescribed acorn worms similar in morphology to Spartobranchus (Nanglu and Caron 2021). These tubes also possessed polychaetes, suggesting a symbiotic relationship between these worms.

References:

  • CARON, J.-B., CONWAY MORRIS, S., AND C. B. CAMERON. 2013. Tubicolous enteropneusts from the Cambrian period. Nature 495: 503-506
  • CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1979. The Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian) fauna. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 10: 327–349.
  • NANGLU, K. AND J.-B. CARON. 2021. Symbiosis in the Cambrian: enteropneust tubes from the Burgess Shale co-inhabited by commensal polychaetes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 288 (1951): 20210061.
  • NANGLU, K., J.-B. CARON, AND C. B. CAMERON. 2020. Cambrian tentaculate worms and the origin of the hemichordate body plan. Current Biology 30 (21): 4238-4244
  • WALCOTT, C. 1911. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(5): 109-145.
Other Links:

Kootenayscolex barbarensis

Kootenayscolex barbarensis, paratype, ROMIP 62972

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Polychaetes
Species name: Kootenayscolex barbarensis
Remarks:

Kootenayscolex bears significant resemblance to modern polychaetes, but is currently considered outside of any extant group. It is currently considered as a stem-group polychaete, as are the other polychaetes from the Burgess Shale (Parry et al. 2016; Nanglu and Caron 2018).

Described by: Nanglu and Caron 2018
Description date: 2018
Etymology:

Kootenay — for Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada, where the Marble Canyon fossil locality is located, and scolex from the Greek word for “worm,” which is a common suffix for polychaetes and reflects their general worm-shaped morphology.

barbarensis — from Barbara Polk Milstein, who is a volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum and a long-time supporter of Burgess Shale research.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 64388; paratypes ROMIP 63099.1, and ROMIP 64389-, 64398
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 and the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

This abundant polychaete, was first reported by Caron et al. in 2014 as a species comparable to Burgessochaeta setigera from the Walcott Quarry. Kootenayscolex was formally described as its own genus by Nanglu and Caron in 2018, using hundreds of new specimens discovered from the Marble Canyon fossil site in Kootenay National Park.

Description:

Morphology:

Kootenayscolex ranged in size from 1mm-30mm. Its head bore two long sensory structures known as palps, as well as a short medial antenna located between them. As with other polychaetes, its body was divided into a series of segments with the widest segments being in the middle of the body. Up to 25 segments have been observed in this species, each of which possessed a pair of parapodia which are fleshy, lateral outgrowths. From these parapodia extended bristles, known as chaetae, arranged into bundles. The dorsal bundles included up to 12 bristles, while the ventral bundles included up to 16 bristles which were arranged as a wider fan. The last segment of this animal, called the pygidium, was relatively simple and possessed no appendages. The head section, called the prostomium, also possessed a single set of parapodia and chaetae, directly adjacent to the mouth.

Abundance:

Kootenayscolex is the fifth most abundant species at Marble Canyon with 833 specimens (Nanglu et al. 2020).

Maximum Size:
About 3 cm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

Kootenayscolex has been reconstructed as a deposit feeding organism due to some specimens preserving sediment which filled the gut. This is particularly noticeable in specimens which have an enlarge anterior part of the gut which is nearly the width of the body. The elongate dorsal bristles were likely used for defense against predators, while the ventral bristles would have allowed for movement along the seafloor.

References:

  • NANGLU, K., AND J.-B., CARON. 2018. A new Burgess Shale polychaete and the origin of the annelid head revisited. Current Biology, 28 (2): 319-326.
  • 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.
  • PARRY, L. A., EDGECOMBE, G. D., EIBYE-JACOBSEN, D., AND J. VINTHER. 2016. The impact of fossil data on annelid phylogeny inferred from discrete morphological characters. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences283 (1837): 20161378.
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Capinatator praetermissus

Capinatator praetermissus, ROMIP 64247

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
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: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
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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Ovatiovermis cribratus

Artistic reconstruction of Ovatiovermis cribratus. Danielle Dufault © ROM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic Assignment: Order Luolishaniida
Species name: Ovatiovermis cribratus
Remarks:

Ovatiovermis 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. Ovatiovermis groups with Facivermis as a peculiar “unarmoured” lineage within the Order Luolishaniida, notably 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: 2017
Etymology:

Ovatiovermis – from the Latin ovatio (ovation) and vermis (worm) owing to the inferred upward-reaching, limb-waving posture of these animals.
cribratus – from the Latin cribrare, to sieve.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 52707 and Paratype ROMIP 64006 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:

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Although the first and most complete specimen was discovered in 1994 by one of the ROM expeditions, Ovatiovermis was not described until 2017 by Caron and Aria. The animal served to exemplify suspension-feeding strategies early in panarthropod evolution, and prompted an analysis of the extent and significance of such lifestyle among other lobopodians.

Description:

Morphology:

Ovatiovermis has a worm-like, tubular body divided into three sections: An anterior section with two pairs of very long lobopods bearing thin spines arranges in chevrons and ending in paired claws; a middle section with four pairs of similar but smaller lobopods; and a posterior section with three pairs of very stout lobopods ending in single strong claws. The head is small and bears a pair of simple visual organs and an eversible pharynx. The surface of the body is devoid of any sclerite or spine. Cuticular folds are visible in the space in between lobopods.

Abundance:

Only two specimens. The holotype specimen (ROMIP 52707) was collected in 1994 from bed assemblage −120 (about 1.2 m below the base of the original Walcott Quarry floor), which is distinct from other bed assemblages in that it has particularly well-preserved specimens across a range of taxa (92 species). The paratype specimen (ROMIP 64006) was found in 2016 by a guest on a guided hike to the Walcott Quarry and forwarded to Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron by the Parks Interpreter office.

Maximum Size:
Maximum Size: 25 mm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

With its anterior sieving and posterior anchoring appendages, Ovatiovermis exemplifies suspension-feeding specialization among lobopodians. It was likely anchored to sponges and stood erect in the water to catch food particles or plankton.

References:

  • 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.
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Yuknessia simplex

3D animation of Yuknessia simplex.
© Phlesch Bubble

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Non applicable
Species name: Yuknessia simplex
Remarks:

Walcott (1919) considered Yuknessia as a green alga, a view shared by Conway Morris and Robison (1988). However, no revision of the type material from the Burgess Shale has been published since its original description and its affinities remain uncertain.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919
Etymology:

Yuknessia – from Yukness Mountain (2,847m), a Peak in Yoho National Park, east of the Burgess Shale.

simplex – from the Latin simplex, meaning “simple,” in reference to the simple morphology of this alga.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM35406 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none

Other deposits: Yuknessia sp. from the Lower Cambrian Niutitan Formation in China (Yang et al., 2003).

Age & Localities:

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

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge and the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: Y. simplex is known from the Middle Cambrian Spence Shale and the Marjum and Wheeler Formations in Utah (Conway Morris and Robison, 1988).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

This genus was described by Charles Walcott (1919) as a possible green alga. However, like all the algae from the Burgess Shale, it awaits a modern redescription (see Dalyia). Conway Morris and Robison (1988) described specimens of this species from several Utah deposits.

Description:

Morphology:

This alga has long branches emerging from a short but wide hollow stem covered of small conical elements or plates. The plates were the attachment sites of the branches. The branches show strong similarities with Dalyia and suggest the two species might be synonymous, with Yuknessia representing the main stem structure of the Dalyia branches.

Abundance:

Yuknessia is very rare and represents only 0.04% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
30 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

The wide stem suggests this species was attached to the sea floor within the photic zone rather than being free floating.

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. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. More soft-bodied animals from the Middle Cambrian of Utah and British Columbia. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, 122 p.

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

YANG, R., W. ZHANG, L. JIANG AND H. GAO. 2003. Chengjiang biota from the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Formation, Zunyi County, Guizhou Province, China. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 77: 145-150.

Other Links:

None

Testing this Change

Acanthotretella spinosa

Reconstruction of Acanthotretella spinosa.

© MARIANNE COLLINS

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Lingulata (Order: Siphonotretida, stem group brachiopods)
Species name: Acanthotretella spinosa
Remarks:

Acanthotretella spinosa is probably related to a primitive group of brachiopods of the Order Siphonotretida (Holmer and Caron, 2006).

Described by: Holmer and Caron
Description date: 2006
Etymology:

Acanthotretella – from the Greek akantha, “thorn,” and tretos, “perforated,” and the Latin diminutive ella, describing the small, perforated, spiny shell.

spinosa – from the Latin spinosus, referring to the exterior spines.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM57749 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: Acanthotretella decaius from the early Cambrian Guanshan fauna, China.

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:

Specimens were first illustrated as Lingulella sp. by Jin, et al. (1993), and formally described as Acanthotretella spinosa by Holmer and Caron (2006). New characters preserved in a related species from China (Acanthotretella decaius, Zhifei et al., 2010) reinforce the probable position of this genus within the Order Siphonotretida.

Description:

Morphology:

The shell of Acanthotretella is mainly organic in composition with probably only minor organo-phosphatic mineralization, and is ventri-biconvex. Both valves are covered in long, slender spines that penetrate the shell and are posteriorly inclined, angled obliquely away from the anterior margin. A long, flexible pedicle emerges from an external tube that extends from the pedicle foramen along the ventral valve. The pedicle is at least three to four times the length of the valves. The visceral area of both valves is short and triangular, and does not extend to mid-valve. Other interior features are poorly known.

Abundance:

Most specimens come from the Walcott Quarry and represent one of the rarest brachiopods with less than 0.05% of the entire fauna (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
8 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

The long, thin pedicle and overall shell shape probably preclude an infaunal habit. Pedicles of several specimens were found attached at the terminal bulb to organic structures, suggesting that Acanthotretella spinosa was epibenthic. The pedicle was likely able to maintain the shell in an upright position well above the sediment-water interface. Extraction of food particles from the water would have been possible thanks to a filter-feeding apparatus (located between the shells) called a lophophore.

References:

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

HU, S. X., Z. F. ZHANG, L. E. HOLMER AND C. B. SKOVSTED. 2010. Soft-part preservation in a linguliform brachiopod from the lower Cambrian Wulongqing Formation (Guanshan Fauna) of Yunnan, South China. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 55: 495-505.

HOLMER, L. E. AND J.-B. CARON. 2006. A spinose stem-group brachiopod with pedicle from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Acta Zoologica (Stockholm), 87: 273-290.

JIN, Y. G, X. G. HOU. AND H. Y. WANG. 1993. Lower Cambrian pediculate lingulids from Yunnan, China. Journal of Paleontology, 67: 788-798.

Other Links:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1463-6395.2006.00241.x/abstract

Yohoia tenuis

3D animation of Yohoia tenuis.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Unranked clade Megacheira? (stem group arthropods)
Species name: Yohoia tenuis
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).

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:

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:

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:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
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

Worthenella cambria

Worthenella cambria (USNM 57643) – Holotype, part and counterpart. Left, plate 22 of Walcott (1911), showing a retouched image of the original specimen described (figure 2) together with other “worms.” Right, images of the same specimen. Specimen length = 60 mm. Specimen wet – direct light (left column), dry – polarized light (right column). Walcott Quarry.

© SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. PHOTOS: JEAN-BERNARD CARON

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Unranked clade (stem group arthropods)
Species name: Worthenella cambria
Remarks:

This animal is related to arthropods, but its systematic status within this group is unknown (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986).

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911
Etymology:

Worthenella – Possibly after the American palaeontologist Amos Henry Worthen, who died in 1888, just as Walcott’s career was taking off.

cambria – from the Welsh Cambria meaning Wales, in reference to the age of the fossil.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM57643 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:

Worthenella was first described by Walcott from a single specimen in a 1911 monograph dealing with various Burgess Shale worms. Walcott interpreted this animal as a polychaete annelid (or bristle worm), in the same family as the animal Wiwaxia (which is now interpreted as a primitive mollusc). However, this interpretation was questioned (Conway Morris, 1979), and the affinities of Worthenella have remained difficult to establish because this singular fossil is too poorly known (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986).

Description:

Morphology:

The animal is elongate with a small head and bears at least 46 segments of similar dimensions. Appendages or tentacles are present beneath the head, but their preservation is poor and it is difficult to know their precise nature and arrangement. The anterior 34 segments seem to bear filamentous branches on their ventral sides, with the following 8 segments equipped with longer appendages. The gut is straight and the anus is terminal.

Abundance:

This animal is known from a single specimen.

Maximum Size:
60 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

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

References:

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.

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

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

Other Links:

None

Wiwaxia corrugata

3D animation of Wiwaxia corrugata grazing on Morania confluens.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Unranked clade halwaxiids (stem group molluscs)
Species name: Wiwaxia corrugata
Remarks:

The relationship of Wiwaxia is hotly debated; its similarities to the molluscs have been highlighted (Conway Morris, 1985; Scheltema et al., 2003; Caron et al., 2006; Caron et al., 2007), but Matthew’s original view that it was related to the annelid worms (Matthew, 1899) still finds some adherents (Butterfield, 1990; Conway Morris and Peel, 1995; Butterfield, 2006; 2008). It is also possible that Wiwaxia branched off before the molluscs and annelids diverged (Eibye-Jacobsen, 2004). Wiwaxia has recently been placed in a group called the halwaxiids, along with the halkieriids, Orthrozanclus, and Odontogriphus (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Described by: Matthew
Description date: 1899
Etymology:

Wiwaxia – from Wiwaxy Peaks (2,703 m) in Yoho National Park. The word wiwaxy is originally from the Stoney First Nation Nakoda language, meaning “windy.”

corrugata – from the Latin corrugis, “folded, or wrinkled,” in reference to the wrinkled aspect of the sclerites.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM8596 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none described, although sclerites have been reported from a number of Middle Cambrian deposits extending from northern Canada (Butterfield, 1994) to China (Zhao et al., 1994).

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds, Tulip Beds (S7) and Collins Quarry on Mount Stephen. Additional smaller localities are known on Mount Field and Mount Odaray.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

In an early review of fossils collected from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen by Walker, Canadian palaeontologist G. F. Matthew (1899) described several forms he thought represented tubes of various annelid worms, including one he named Orthotheca corrugata. At the time, Matthew did not know this particular fossil was only part of a much larger organism. It was only when Walcott (1911) discovered articulated and much better preserved specimens from the Phyllopod Bed that the morphology of this species became clearer. Walcott placed corrugata in his new genus Wiwaxia and interpreted it as a polychaete annelid worm (Walcott, 1911). The single best specimen of Walker’s “Orthotheca corrugata” remained unrecognized until it was “rediscovered” in the ROM collections in 1977.

Walcott’s interpretation was called into question in a comprehensive reassessment of the genus (Conway Morris, 1985), and Conway Morris’s link between Wiwaxia mouthparts and the molluscan radula was built upon by Scheltema et al. (2003) and Caron et al. (2006). Butterfield (1990), however, defended an annelid affinity mostly based on the study of individual sclerites, first at the crown-, and later at the stem-group level (Butterfield, 2003; 2006), but further work suggested that the evidence does not conclusively support a close relationship with annelids (Eibye-Jacobsen, 2004). A connection with the halkieriids was drawn early on (Bengtson and Morris, 1984; Conway Morris and Peel, 1995), and expanded more recently (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Other studies have dealt more specifically with the ecology and taphonomy of this animal. The finely spaced patterning of ridges on the scale may have given Wiwaxia an iridescent aspect in life (Parker, 1998). Wiwaxia has proven useful in calculating the extent of decay in fossil assemblages (Caron and Jackson, 2006) and in reconstructing the longer term taphonomic processes responsible for the preservation of the Burgess Shale fossils (Butterfield et al., 2007).

Description:

Morphology:

Wiwaxia corrugata is a slug-like organism up to 5.5 cm in length almost entirely covered (except on the ventral surface) with an array of scale-like elements referred to as sclerites and spines. The body is roughly oval, and lacks evidence of segmentation. The body-covering sclerites are arranged in about 50 rows. In addition, two rows of 7–11 blade-like spines are present on the dorsal surface. Spines and sclerites were inserted directly into the body wall. Wiwaxia’s feeding apparatus consists of two (in rare cases three) toothed plates that have been compared to a molluscan radula or annelid jaws.

Abundance:

Wiwaxia is mostly known from the Walcott Quarry where it is relatively common, representing 0.9% of the specimens counted in the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
55 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

The similarity of Wiwaxia’s feeding apparatus to that of Odontogriphus suggests that it too fed on the cyanobacterial Morania mats growing on the Cambrian sea floor. Its sclerite armour-plating and long spines, sometimes found broken, suggest that it was targeted by unidentified predators.

References:

BENGSTON, S. AND S. CONWAY MORRIS, 1984. A comparative study of Lower Cambrian Halkieria and Middle Cambrian Wiwaxia. Lethaia, 17:307-329.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 1990. A reassessment of the enigmatic Burgess Shale fossil Wiwaxia corrugata (Matthew) and its relationship to the polychaete Canadia spinosa Walcott. Paleobiology: 287-303.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 1994. Burgess Shale-type fossils from a Lower Cambrian shallow-shelf sequence in northwestern Canada. Nature, 369(6480): 477-479.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2003. Exceptional fossil preservation and the Cambrian Explosion. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43:166-177.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2006. Hooking some stem-group “worms”: fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 28: 1161-1166.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2008. An early Cambrian radula. Journal of Paleontology, 82(3): 543-554.

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., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN, 2006. A soft-bodied mollusc with radula from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Nature, 442(7099): 159-163.

CARON, J.-B., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN. 2007. Reply to Butterfield on stem-group “worms:” fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 29:200-202.

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(1134): 507-582.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND J.-B. CARON, 2007. Halwaxiids and the Early Evolution of the Lophotrochozoans. Science, 315(5816): 1255-1258.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND J. S. PEEL, 1995. Articulated halkieriids from the Lower Cambrian of North Greenland and their role in early protostome evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 347(1321): 305-358.

EIBYE-JACOBSEN, D. 2004. A reevaluation of Wiwaxia and the polychaetes of the Burgess Shale. Lethaia, 37(3): 317-335.

MATTHEW, G. F. 1899. Studies on Cambrian Faunas, No. 3. Upper Cambrian fauna, Mount Stephen, British Columbia. The trilobites and worms. Transactions of the Royal Society, 5: 39-66.

PARKER, A. R. 1998. Colour in Burgess Shale animals and the effect of light on evolution in the Cambrian. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265(1400): 967.

SCHELTEMA, A. H., K. KERTH AND A. M. KUZIRIAN, 2003. Original molluscan radula: Comparisons among Aplacophora, Polyplacophora, Gastropoda, and the Cambrian fossil Wiwaxia corrugata. Journal of Morphology, 257(2): 219-245.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(2): 109-144.

ZHAO, Y.-l., Y. QIAN AND X.-S. LI, 1994. Wiwaxia from Early-Middle Cambrian Kaili Formation in Taijiang, Guizhou. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 33:359-366.

Other Links:

http://www.paleobiology.si.edu/burgess/wiwaxia.html

Waputikia ramosa

3D animation of Waputikia ramosa.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Walcott Quarry
Phylum: Walcott Quarry
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Non applicable
Species name: Waputikia ramosa
Remarks:

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

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919
Etymology:

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.

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:

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.

Description:

Morphology:

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.

Abundance:

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

Maximum Size:
60 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Walcott Quarry
Feeding strategies: Walcott Quarry
Ecological Interpretations:

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

References:

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.

Other Links:

None