The Burgess Shale

Stanleycaris hirpex

An anomalocaridid with a frontal appendage bearing double-pointed dorsal spines

Stanleycaris hirpex (ROM 59944) – Holotype, part and counterpart. Individual claw. Specimen length = 29 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Stanley Glacier.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Dinocarida (Order: Radiodonta, stem group arthropods)
Species name: Stanleycaris hirpex

Stanleycaris is an anomalocaridid closely related to Hurdia and Laggania. Anomalocaridids have been variously regarded as basal stem-lineage euarthropods (e.g., Daley et al., 2009), basal members of the arthropod group Chelicerata (e.g., Chen et al., 2004), and as a sister group to the arthropods (e.g., Hou et al., 2006).

Described by: Caron et al.
Description date: 2010

Stanleycaris – from Stanley Glacier, 40 kilometres southeast of the Burgess Shale in Kootenay National Park, where the fossils come from and the Latin caris, meaning “shrimp.” The name Stanley was given after Frederick Arthur Stanley (1841-1908), Canada’s sixth Governor General.

hirpex – from the Latin, hirpex, meaning “large rake,” in reference to the rake-like aspect of the appendage.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM59944 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

The first fossils of this species were collected by the Royal Ontario Museum in 1996 from talus slopes, but it was not until 2008, during a larger expedition, that specimens were discovered in their proper stratigraphic context. A description of this new genus and species soon followed (Caron et al., 2010).



Stanleycaris is known from paired or isolated grasping appendages and disarticulated assemblages. The entire animal might have reached 15 centimetres in total length. The grasping appendages range in length from 1.2 cm to 3 cm and have eleven segments (or podomeres), with five spinous ventral blades on the second to sixth segments. Double-pointed dorsal spines are particularly prominent from the second to the sixth segment, decreasing in size towards the distal end of the appendage. The longest of these robust spines is typically two to three times shorter than the ventral blades. The last segment has three curved terminal spines. Mouthparts are represented by circlets of plates bearing teeth around a central square opening. Assemblages are poorly preserved, and the best example consists of a pair of grasping appendages, a mouth part, and remnants of what might represent parts of a carapace or gill structures.


This species is relatively rare and only found near Stanley Glacier.

Maximum Size:
150 mm


Life habits: Nektonic, Mobile, Nektobenthic
Feeding strategies: Carnivorous
Ecological Interpretations:

Stanleycaris is considered a predator or a scavenger, based on the morphology of its frontal appendages and mouth parts. The comb-like ventral blades might have been useful for searching small prey items or disturbing carcasses at the water-sediment interface and within the flocculent level of the mud.


CARON, J.-B., R. GAINES, G. MANGANO, M. STRENG AND A. DALEY. 2010. A new Burgess Shale-type assemblage from the “thin” Stephen Formation of the Southern Canadian Rockies. Geology, 38(9): 811-814.

CHEN, J. Y., L. RAMSKÖLD AND G. Q. ZHOU. 1994. Evidence for monophyly and arthropod affinity of Cambrian giant predators. Science, 264: 1304-1308.

CHEN, J. Y., D. WALOSZEK AND A. MAAS. 2004. A new ‘great-appendage’ arthropod from the Lower Cambrian of China and homology of chelicerate chelicerae and raptorial antero-ventral appendages. Lethaia, 37: 3-20.

DALEY, A. C., G. E. BUDD, J. B. CARON, G. D. EDGECOMBE AND D. COLLINS. 2009. The Burgess Shale anomalocaridid Hurdia and its significance for early euarthropod evolution. Science, 323: 1597-1600.

HOU, X., J. BERGSTRÖM AND P. AHLBERG. 1995. Anomalocaris and other large animals in the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna of Southwest China. GFF, 117: 163-183.

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