Artiopoda is the clade including trilobites and their non-biomineralized relatives. The placement of Artiopoda relative to other arthropod groups, and particularly extant lineages, has been the subject of a long and ongoing debate (e.g. Aria et al. 2015; Paterson 2020). Misszhouia is the closest relative of Naraoia, together forming the family Naraoiidae, typified notably by having both cephalon and trunk forming smooth, articulating shields. Naraoiidae could be derived taxa among artiopodans (Mayers et al. 2019), but the internal relationships of Artiopoda have been difficult to resolve and continue to remain at odds between phylogenetic studies (e.g. Lerosey-Aubril et al. 2017; Moysiuk & Caron 2019).
Misszhouia — in honour of Miss Guiqing Zhou, fossil preparator and technical assistant to Prof. Junyuan Chen from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sinica, China.
canadensis — from being discovered in Canada.
Holotype ROMIP 64408; paratypes ROMIP 64411, 64438, 64450, 64451, 64509, 64510, 64511, in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
The Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek areas of the Burgess Shale, British Columbia.
Chen and colleagues created the genus Misszhouia mostly based on the distinction that these individuals of “Naraoia” longicaudata did not possess gut ramifications inside the head, compared to Naraoia species from the Chengjiang biota and Burgess Shale. The morphoanatomy and taxonomy of Naraoiidae from China were later thoroughly revised by Zhang and colleagues (2007). Misszhouia canadensis was one of the first taxa found on talus when the Marble Canyon outcrop was discovered in 2012 (Caron et al. 2014). Although these fossils do possess extensive digestive ramifications in the head, morphometric analyses of body shape showed that specimens from both Canada and China formed a genus distinct from Naraoia (Mayers et al. 2019). Morphometric data also allowed for the identification of putative sexual morphs (Zhang et al. 2007; Mayers et al. 2019).
As an artiopodan, Misszhouia possesses a flattened body divided into a circular cephalon and a trunk, a pair of sensory antennules, and robust walking limbs with masticatory gnathobases, oriented parallel to the ventral surface of the body. Both cephalon and trunk form single smooth shields articulating to one another. In the cephalon, the gut ramifies into extensive diverticula; it is completed by lateral extensions called caeca in the trunk. In addition to the frontal antennules, the head bears another three pairs of limbs. The trunk represents 65% of total body length, with at least 30 limb pairs. The appendages are likely similar to M. longicaudata, with an inner walking branch and an outer, rod-shaped respiratory branch bearing packed lamellae.
Misszhouia is relatively rare at the Marble Canyon Quarry proper, but can be common along Tokumm Creek sites (Mayers et al. 2019).
Misszhouia was construed to be a predator or scavenger based on the presence of long antennules and well-developed gnathobases (masticatory surfaces at the base of the limbs) (Chen et al. 1997). The absence of digestive ramifications in the head of the Burgess Shale species, compared to the one from Chengjiang, suggests either different diets or different frequencies of feeding (Mayers et al. 2019).