The Burgess Shale

Paterina zenobia

A brachiopod with prominent growth lines

3D animation of Paterina zenobia and other brachiopods (Acrothyra gregaria, Diraphora bellicostata, Micromitra burgessensis, and Nisusia burgessensis).



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Brachiopoda
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Paterinata (Order: Paterinida)
Species name: Paterina zenobia

A brachiopod within the family Paterinidae.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1912

Paterina – from the Latin word pater, “father,” because the species was considered the ancestor of modern brachiopods, and the diminutive suffix, – ina, “derived from.”

zenobia – possibly from the Greek, Zeon, a form of Zeus.

Type Specimens: Syntype–USNM58311; plesiotypesUSNM56907, 51483, 69631- 69637 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: Several species are known in the Lower to the Middle Cambrian worldwide.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge and the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott originally assigned specimens collected from the Burgess Shale and Mount Stephen to Micromitra zenobia Walcott (1912) and a subspecies of Paterina stissingensis, called Paterina stissingensis ora Walcott (1912). Both taxa were redescribed as Paterina zenobia by Resser (1938), a combination still in use today. However, close similarities between species of the two genera have created difficulties in defining their specific characteristics, which have resulted in many incorrectly identified specimens.



Paterina is the type genus of one of the earliest and most primitive brachiopod groups, the Paterinata. Unlike many modern brachiopods, its hinge line is straight and crosses almost the full width of the shell. The moderately biconvex shell grows consistently, rather than showing separate stages of development. Its exterior growth lines are coarse and regular. Faint radial ridges are present at the apex of some adult specimens. No preserved soft parts are known and the shell was originally mineralized.


This species is rare in the Walcott Quarry and represents a very small fraction of the entire fauna (<0.05%) (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
11 mm


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

Paterina probably attached to the substrate by a very short stalk. Paterina extracted food particles from the water with its 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.

RESSER, C. E. 1938. Fourth contribution to nomenclature of Cambrian Fossils. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 97: 1-43.

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

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