The Burgess Shale

Gyaltsenglossus senis

A crawling worm with feeding tentacles

Gyaltsenglossus senis, holotype, ROMIP 65606.1


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Hemichordata
Higher Taxonomic assignment: No subphylum assignment
Species name: Gyaltsenglossus senis

Gyaltsenglossus is currently considered a stem-group hemichordate. It has features of both the modern hemichordate groups in that it has the long proboscis and worm-shaped body of the Enteropneusta (acorn worms) and the crown of feeding tentacles of the Pterobranchia.

Described by: Nanglu et al. 2020
Description date: 2020

Gyaltsen (pronounced “GEN-zay”) in honour of the lead author’s father, and glossus from the Greek glossa, meaning tongue, a common generic suffix for hemichordates.

Senis from the Latin senex, meaning old.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP 65606.1
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None.
Other deposits: None

Age & Localities:

Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan Stage, upper part of the Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

Odaray Mountain, Yoho National Park.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Gyaltsenglossus was described in 2020 based on 33 specimens, all collected from Odaray Mountain. Only the holotype preserves all major anatomical features.



: Gyaltsenglossus is a worm roughly 2 cm long. At the anterior end, it has an elongate, ovoid, muscular proboscis. Behind the proboscis is a set of six arms which bore roughly 15 pairs of tentacles. These arms were roughly 1.5 times as long as the proboscis, based on measurements taken from the holotype. The tentacles give the arms an overall fuzzy or foliose appearance. Behind the feeding arms is a roughly cylindrical trunk, which tapers from the largest point at the anterior and becomes smaller towards the posterior end of the animal. On the dorsal side of the trunk, directly behind the feeding arms, an elevated area leads to a set of thin, thread-like appendages. Posterior to the trunk is a bulbous structure with internal features preserved more darkly than in the surrounding tissues. This bulbous structure may constitute thickened tissue. In some specimens, a gut ending prior to the posterior bulbous structure is preserved.


33 specimens were described.

Maximum Size:
About 2 cm.


Life habits: Epibenthic
Feeding strategies: Suspension feeder, Deposit feeder
Ecological Interpretations:

The morphology of Gyaltsenglossus suggests that it had a two-part feeding ecology. The long proboscis could have been used to feed directly from the marine mud on which the animal would have lived, in a manner similar to that of modern-day acorn worms. The feeding arms could also have been used to filter food particles from the water above the organism, as done by pterobranchs. The posterior bulbous appendage may have been used to anchor Gyaltsenglossus to the seafloor, particularly when it was feeding on small particles from the water.


  • 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
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