The Burgess Shale

Takakkawia lineata

A conical sponge with blade-like fins

Reconstruction of Takakkawia lineata.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Takakkawia lineata

Takakkawia is considered a primitive demosponge (Rigby, 1986). Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920

Takakkawia – from Takakkaw Falls, a waterfall in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, the second tallest in Canada. From the Stoney First Nation Nakoda word “Takakkaw,” for “magnificent,” a descriptive name for the waterfall given by Cornelius Van Horne in 1897.

lineata – from the Latin lineatus, “marked with lines,” this refers to the distinctive blade-like elements along the length of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM66539, in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
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 Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge, the Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen and other smaller sites on Mount Field.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott described Takakkawia in his 1920 paper on the Burgess Shale sponges. The genus was redescribed by Rigby in 1986 and again by Rigby and Collins (2004) based on new material collected by the Royal Ontario Museum.



This is an elongate conical sponge with eight stiff bladelike fins that project radially from the wall of the sponge and extends from a sharp root tip. These fins are composed of fine vertical spicules. Internally the fins are connected to long twisted strands of spicules that form ribbon-like structures. These structures are connected by horizontal ladder-like bundles of spicules. Most spicules are monaxial (simple and elongate) but some could have had three spines. The eight blade-like fins form sharp tips and fan outwards at the oscular margin (the hole at the top). This sponge would have had a large central cavity (spongocoel).


Takakkawia is rare in most sites but abundant in the Walcott Quarry and represents 2.61 % of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
40 mm


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

Takakkawia would have lived on the sea floor. Particles of organic matter were extracted from the water as they passed through canals in the sponge’s wall.


CARON, J.-B. AND D. A. JACKSON. 2008. Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258: 222-256.

RIGBY, J. K. 1986. Sponges of the Burgess shale (Middle Cambrian), British Columbia. Palaeontographica Canadiana, 2: 105 p.

RIGBY, J. K. AND D. COLLINS. 2004. Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and Stephen Formations, British Columbia. Royal Ontario Museum Contributions in Science (1): 155 p.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1920. Middle Cambrian Spongiae. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology IV. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(6): 261-365.

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