The Burgess Shale

Lingulella waptaensis

A centimetre-scale, mineralized brachiopod with a long pedicle

Reconstruction of Lingulella waptaensis.

© Marianne Collins


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Brachiopoda
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Lingulata (Order: Lingulida)
Species name: Lingulella waptaensis

Lingulella belongs within the Family Obolidae.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1924

Lingulella – from the Latin lingua, “tongue,” and ellus, “diminutive.”

waptaensis – from Wapta Moutain (2,778 m), just north of the Walcott Quarry, in British Columbia, Canada.

Type Specimens: Syntypes –USNM69822-69824 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None to date. The Burgess Shale brachiopods in particular from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen need to be re-examined (see also Brief history of research).

Other deposits: Hundreds of species have been assigned to the genus Lingulella.

Age & Localities:

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:

Lingulella waptaensis was only cursorily described by Walcott (1924). At least another possible related form is known from the Trilobite Beds – originally described as Lingulella mcconnelli (Walcott, 1889; Matthew, 1902) and later renamed Obolus mconnelli (Walcott, 1908, 1912). Sutton et al. (2000) revised the diagnosis of Lingulella, restricting the concept of what had become a ‘trashcan’ genus for any similar elongate forms (called “obolids”). Consequently, many of the hundreds of species assigned to Lingulella no longer fit the diagnosis. As such, ‘Lingulella’ waptaensis needs to be re-examined to determine whether it conforms to the current concept of the genus. Shell structures and the first specimens with pedicles preserved have recently been described from the Burgess Shale (Pettersson et al., 2010).



Lingulella waptaensis is elongate and suboval in outline. The valves are weakly biconvex and smooth with the exception of growth lines. The visceral areas are weakly impressed to the interior of the shell and difficult to study in details. The pedicle is slender and protrudes between the valves. It is at least three times the length of the valves and is often twisted and wrinkled. The shell was originally mineralized.


Lingulella waptaensis is known from several hundred specimens in the Walcott Quarry but overall represents a small fraction of the fauna (<0.7%) (Caron and Jackson, 2008)

Maximum Size:
10 mm


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

Like another comparable brachiopod from the Burgess Shale, Acanthotretella spinosa, the long, thin pedicle and overall shell shape of Lingulella waptaensis probably precludes an infaunal habit. 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.


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

MATTHEW, G. F. 1902. Notes on Cambrian Faunas: Cambrian Brachiopoda and Mollusca of Mt. Stephen, B.C. with the description of a new species of Metoptoma. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 4: 93-112.

PETTERSSON, S., L. E. HOLMER AND J.-B. CARON. 2010. First record of a pediculate linguloid from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Acta Zoologica, 91: 150-162.

SUTTON, M. D., M. G. BASSET AND L. CHERNS. 2000. The type species of Lingulella (Cambrian Brachiopoda). Journal of Paleontology, 74: 426-438.

WALCOTT, C. 1889. Description of new genera and species of fossils from the Middle Cambrian. United States National Museum, Proceedings for 1888: 441-446.

WALCOTT, C. 1908. Mount Stephen rocks and fossils. Canadian Alpine Journal, 1: 232-248.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1912. Cambrian Brachiopoda. United States Geological Survey, Monograph, 51: part I, 812 p; part II, 363 p.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1924. Cambrian and Ozarkian Brachioda. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology IV. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67: 477-554.

Other Links: