The Burgess Shale

Misszhouia canadensis

A shielded arthropod first discovered in China

Misszhouia canadensis, two specimens, ROMIP 65408


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Subphylum Artiopoda (Hou & Bergström 1997), Class Nektaspida (Raymond 1920), Family Naraoiidae (Walcott 1912).
Species name: Misszhouia canadensis

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).

Described by: Mayers, Aria and Caron
Description date: 2018

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.

Type Specimens: dsfsdfdsfdsfdasf
Other species:

Holotype ROMIP 64408; paratypes ROMIP 64411, 64438, 64450, 64451, 64509, 64510, 64511, in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

Age & Localities:

Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan Stage, upper part of the Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old)
Principal localities:

The Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek areas of the Burgess Shale, British Columbia.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Chen and colleagues created the genus Misszhouia mostly based on the distinction that these individuals of “Naraoialongicaudata 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).

Maximum Size:
About 8 cm.


Life habits: Unknown
Feeding strategies: Carnivorous
Ecological Interpretations:

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).


  • ARIA, C., CARON, J.-B. and GAINES, R. 2015. A large new leanchoiliid from the Burgess Shale and the influence of inapplicable states on stem arthropod phylogeny. Palaeontology, 58, 629–660.
  • CARON, J.-B., GAINES, R. R., ARIA, C., MANGANO, M. G. and STRENG, M. 2014. A new phyllopod bed-like assemblage from the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies. Nature Communications, 5.
  • CHEN, J. Y., EDGECOMBE, G. D. and RAMSKÖLD, L. 1997. Morphological and ecological disparity in naraoiids (Arthropoda) from the Early Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, China. Records of the Austalian Museum, 49, 1–24.
  • HOU, X. G. and BERGSTRÖM, J. 1997. Arthropods of the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, southwest China. Fossils and Strata, 45, 1–116.
  • LEROSEY-AUBRIL, R., ZHU, X. and ORTEGA-HERNÁNDEZ, J. 2017. The Vicissicaudata revisited – insights from a new aglaspidid arthropod with caudal appendages from the Furongian of China. Scientific Reports, 7, Article number: 11117.
  • MAYERS, B., ARIA, C. and CARON, J. B. 2019. Three new naraoiid species from the Burgess Shale, with a morphometric and phylogenetic reinvestigation of Naraoiidae. Palaeontology, 62, 19–50.
  • MOYSIUK, J. and CARON, J. B. 2019. Burgess Shale fossils shed light on the agnostid problem. Proc Biol Sci, 286, 20182314.
  • PATERSON, J. R. 2020. The trouble with trilobites: classification, phylogeny and the cryptogenesis problem. Geological Magazine, 157, 35–46.
  • RAYMOND, P. E. 1920. The appendages, anatomy and relationships of trilobites. Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 7, 1–169.
  • WALCOTT, C. 1912. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(6), 145–228.
  • ZHANG, X. L., SHU, D. G. and ERWIN, D. H. 2007. Cambrian naraoiids (Arthropoda): morphology, ontogeny, systematics, and evolutionary relationships. Journal of Paleontology, 81, 1–52.
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