Mackenzia is thought to be a cnidarian (a group which includes modern coral and jellyfish) and appears most similar to modern sea anemones (Conway Morris, 1993).
Mackenzia – from Mount Mackenzie (2,461 m) near Revelstoke, southwest of the Burgess Shale. Mount Mackenzie was named in honor of Alexander Mackenzie (1822-1892), Canada’s 2nd Prime Minister.
costalis – from the Latin costalis, “pertaining to ribs.” The name refers to the lineations along the length of the animal.
Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.
Other deposits: none.
The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. The Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen.
Mackenzia was first described as a holothurian, a group of echinoderms commonly known as the sea-cucumbers (Walcott, 1911). Additional fossils collected by the Geological Survey of Canada and restudy of Walcott’s collection led Conway Morris (1989, 1993) to reinterpret this animal as a cnidarian.
Mackenzia is a large saclike animal, up to 16 cm in height, which was anchored to hard substrates with a disc or holdfast via a short stalk; it probably stood upright. The surface of the body is folded longitudinally into 8-10 ridges. There is a large gut cavity and some evidence of internal partitioning, but little else is known of the anatomy. Tentacles are absent; the mouth was probably at the end opposite the stalk.
Mackenzia is very rare and represents only 0.03% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).
Mackenzia probably lived on the seabed and may have attached to animal remains such as brachiopod shells for stability. Its mode of feeding is uncertain.
CARON, J.-B. AND D. A. JACKSON. 2008. Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258: 222-256.
CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1989. Burgess Shale faunas and the Cambrian explosion. Science, 246: 339-346.
CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1993. Ediacaran-like fossils in Cambrian Burgess Shale-type faunas of North America. Palaeontology, 36(3): 593-635.
WALCOTT, C. D. 1911. Middle Cambrian holothurians and medusae. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(3): 41-68.