The Burgess Shale

Caryosyntrips serratus

An anomalocaridid with nutcracker-like appendages

Caryosyntrips serratus (ROM 57161) – Holotype, part and counterpart. Individual claw. Specimen length = 78 mm. Specimen dry – direct light (top row), dry – polarized light (bottom row). Walcott Quarry.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Dinocarida (Order: Radiodonta, stem group arthropods)
Species name: Caryosyntrips serratus

Caryosyntrips is an anomalocaridid. Anomalocaridids have been variously regarded as basal stem-lineage euarthropods (e.g., 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).

Described by: Daley and Budd
Description date: 2010

Caryosyntrips – from the Greek karyon meaning “nut,” and syntrips, a mythical fiend who smashed pottery; thus, a nut smasher, referring to the nutcracker-like morphology of the paired appendages

serratus – from the Latin serratus, “saw-edged.”

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM57161 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. Also known from the Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

This genus was first noticed and illustrated as “Dinocarida A” in Caron (2005), and formally designated as Carysyntrips serratus by Daley and Budd (2010).



This taxon is known from eleven specimens of isolated appendages. Appendages are straight and tapering in outline, with a length that ranges between 58 mm and 114 mm. Segmentation of the appendage is poor, but at least 12 podomeres (segments) can be distinguished. The appendage is straight and rigid, with no movement occurring at the podomere boundaries. Each podomere has one thick, short spine on the inner surface, and several smaller spines on the outer surface, giving this outer margin a serrated appearance. The distal end of the appendage tapers to a point, and a single terminal spine is slightly curved. Most appendages are isolated, but a single paired specimen shows the appendages arranged in close proximity, with their thick spine margins in opposition. This particular specimen is loosely associated with potential remains of the body of the animal in the form of some cuticular elements. However, these elements are poorly preserved and might not be of the same animal.


Carysyntrips serratus is extremely rare. Most specimens (8) come from the Walcott Quarry.

Maximum Size:
114 mm


Life habits: Nektobenthic, Mobile
Feeding strategies: Carnivorous
Ecological Interpretations:

Carysyntrips serratus is assumed to have had a similar mode of life to the rest of the anomalocaridids, meaning that it swam through the water column actively searching out prey. Its predatory nature is inferred from the morphology of the appendages, which were heavily spined. The straight, rigid appendages may have pivoted at their proximal attachment points to bring the thick-spine edges of the pair appendages together in a grasping or slicing motion.


CARON, J. B. 2005. Taphonomy and community analysis of the Middle Cambrian Greater Phyllopod Bed, Brugess Shale. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto, Toronto, 316 pp.

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.

DALEY, A. C., G. E. BUDD, J. B. CARON, G. D. EDGECOMBE AND D. COLLINS. 2009. The Burgess Shale anomalocaridid Hurdia and its significance for early euarthropod evolution. Science, 323: 1597-1600.

DALEY, A. C. AND G. E. BUDD. 2010. New anomalocaridid appendage from the Burgess Shale, Canada. Palaeontology, 53: 721-738.

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