The Burgess Shale

Hurdia victoria

A cousin of Anomalocaris with large carapaces and comb-like claws

3D animation of Hurdia victoria.

Animation by Phlesch Bubble © Royal Ontario Museum


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

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).

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1912

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.

Type Specimens: Lectotypes –USNM57718 (H. victoria) andUSNM57721 (H. triangulata) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

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).

Age & Localities:

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

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.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

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.

Maximum Size:
500 mm


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

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.


BRIGGS, D. E. G. 1979. Anomalocaris, the largest known Cambrian arthropod. Palaeontology, 22: 631-663.

BRIGGS, D. E. G., B. S. LIEBERMAN, J. R. HENDRICK, S. L. HALGEDAHL AND R. D. JARRARD. 2008. Middle Cambrian arthropods from Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 82: 238-254.

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.

CHLUPÁČ, I. AND V. KORDULE. 2002. Arthropods of Burgess Shale type from the Middle Cambrian of Bohemia (Czech Republic). Bulletin of the Czech Geological Survey, 77: 167-182.

COLLINS, D. 1996. The “evolution” of Anomalocaris and its classification in the arthropod class Dinocarida (nov) and order Radiodonta (nov). Journal of Paleontology, 70: 280-293.

CUI, Z. AND S. HUO. 1990. New discoveries of Lower Cambrian crustacean fossils from Western Hubei. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 29: 321-330.

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.

HOU, X., J. BERGSTRÖM AND P. AHLBERG. 1995. Anomalocaris and other large animals in the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna of Southwest China. GFF, 117: 163-183.

HOU, X., J. BERGSTRÖM AND Y. JIE. 2006. Distinguishing anomalocaridids from arthropods and priapulids. Geological Journal, 41: 259-269.

LIEBERMAN, B. S. 2003. A new soft-bodied fauna: The Pioche Formation of Nevada. Journal of Paleontology, 77: 674-690.

ROLFE, W. D. I. 1962. Two new arthropod carapaces from the Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian) of Canada. Breviora Museum of Comparative Zoology, 60: 1-9.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911a. Middle Cambrian Merostomata. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57: 17-40.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911b. Middle Cambrian holothurians and medusae. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57: 41-68.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1912. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57: 145-228.

WHITTINGTON, H. B. AND D. E. G. BRIGGS. 1985. The largest Cambrian animal, Anomalocaris, Burgess Shale, British-Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 309: 569-609.

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