Hurdia is an anomalocaridid, and is usually considered to represent either a basal stem-lineage euarthropod (e.g. Daley et al., 2009), a member of the crown-group arthropods (e.g. Chen et al., 2004), or a sister group to the arthropods (Hou et al., 2006).
Hurdia – from Mount Hurd (2,993 m), a mountain northeast of the now defunct Leanchoil railway station on the Canadian Pacific Railway in Yoho National Park. The peak was named by Tom Wilson for Major M. F. Hurd, a CPR survey engineer who explored the Rocky Mountain passes starting in the 1870s.
victoria – unspecified; perhaps from Mount Victoria (3,464 m) on the border of Yoho and Banff National Parks, named by Norman Collie in 1897 to honour Queen Victoria.
Burgess Shale and vicinity: Hurdia triangulata.
Other deposits: Potentially other species are represented in Utah (Wheeler Formation) (Briggs et al., 2008), the Jince Formation in the Czech Republic (Chlupáč and Kordule 2002) and the Shuijingtuo Formation in Hubei Province, China (Cui and Huo, 1990) and possibly Nevada (Lieberman, 2003).
The Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge. Also known from other localities on Mount Field, Mount Stephen – Tulip Beds (S7) – and near Stanley Glacier.
Hurdia is a relative newcomer to the anomalocaridids. Although isolated parts of its body were first identified in the early 1900s, no affinity could be determined until the description of whole body specimens by Daley et al. in 2009. Hurdia victoria was the name originally given to an isolated triangular carapace that Walcott (1912) suggested belonged to an unknown arthropod. Proboscicaris, another isolated carapace, was originally described as a phyllopod arthropod (Rolfe, 1962). Hurdia’s frontal appendages were first described by Walcott (1911a) as the feeding limbs of Sidneyia, but were later removed from this genus and referred to as “Appendage F” with unknown affinity (Briggs, 1979).
Like other anomalocaridids, the mouth parts were first described as the jellyfish Peytoia nathorsti (Walcott, 1911b). When Whittington and Briggs (1985) discovered the first whole body specimens of Anomalocaris, the mouth part identity of Peytoia was recognized and “Appendage F” was determined to be the frontal appendage of Anomalocaris nathorsti (later renamed Laggania cambria by Collins (1996). When describing Anomalocaris, Whittington and Briggs (1985) also figured a mouth apparatus with extra rows of teeth.
After two decades of collecting at the Burgess Shale, Desmond Collins from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) discovered that this extra-spiny mouth part actually belonged to a third type of anomalocaridid, which also had an “Appendage F” pair and a frontal carapace structure consisting of one Hurdia carapace and two Proboscicaris carapaces (Daley et al., 2009). This is the Hurdia animal. ROM specimens of “Appendage F” showed that it has three distinct morphologies, two of which belongs to the Hurdia animal (known from two species, victoria and triangulata) and one to Laggania cambria.
Hurdia has a bilaterally symmetrical body that is broadly divisible into two sections of equal lengths. The anterior region is a complex of non-mineralized carapaces consisting of one dorsal triangular H-element (previously called Hurdia) and two lateral subrectangular P-elements (or Proboscicaris). This complex is hollow and open ventrally. It attaches near the anterior margin of the head and protrudes forward. The surfaces of the H- and P-elements are covered in a distinctive polygonal pattern similar to that seen on Tuzoia carapaces. A pair of oval eyes on short stalks protrudes upwards through dorsal-lateral notches in the overlapping posterior corners of the H- and P-elements.
Mouth parts are on the ventral surface of the head, and consist of a circlet of 32 tapering and overlapping plates, 4 large and 28 small, with spines lining the square inner opening. Within the central opening are up to five inner rows of toothed plates. A pair of appendages flanks the mouth part, each with nine thin segments with short dorsal spines and seven elongated ventral spines. The posterior half of the body consists of a series of seven to nine reversely imbricated lateral lobes that extend ventrally into triangular flaps. Dorsal surfaces of the lateral lobes are covered in a series of elongated blades interpreted to be gill structures. The body terminates abruptly in two rounded lobes, and lacks a tailfan. Complete specimens are up to 20 cm in length, although disarticulated fragments may suggest a larger body size up to 50 cm long. Hurdia triangulata differs from Hurdia victoria by having a wider and shorter H-element.
Over 700 specimens of Hurdia have been identified, most of which are disarticulated. Hurdia is found in all Burgess Shale quarries on Fossil Ridge, and is particularly abundant in Raymond Quarry, where it makes up almost 1% of the community (240 specimens). A total of 7 complete body specimens exist.
Hurdia was likely nektonic, since there are no trunk limbs for walking, and the numerous gills suggest an active swimming lifestyle. The animal propelled itself through the water column by waving its lateral lobes and gills. The large eyes, prominent appendages and spiny mouth parts suggest that Hurdia actively sought out moving prey items. Although the function of the frontal carapace remains unknown, it may have played a role in prey capture. If Hurdia were swimming just above the sea floor, it could have used the tip of its frontal carapace to stir up sediment and dislodge prey items, which would then be trapped beneath its frontal carapace. Prey items were funneled towards the mouth by a sweeping motion of the long ventral blades of the frontal appendages, which formed a rigid net or cage. Like other anomalocaridids, Hurdia likely ingested soft-bodied prey.
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