The Burgess Shale

Thelxiope palaeothalassia

A rare spiny arthropod

Thelxiope palaeothalassia (GSC 74990). Articulated specimen (close up to the right), associated with several individuals of the arthropod Canadaspis perfecta. Specimen length = 29 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Walcott Quarry.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Unranked clade (stem group arthropods)
Species name: Thelxiope palaeothalassia

The affinity of Thelxiope has not been considered in detail because the appendages are unknown.

Described by: Simonetta and Delle Cave
Description date: 1975

Thelxiope – from the Greek thelx meaning “enchanting,” and ops, meaning “voice,” referring to the muse-like appearance of the animal.

palaeothalassia – from the Greek palaios, meaning “ancient,” and thalassios, meaning “marine,” in reference to the age and environment where the animal lived.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM144914 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 Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott (1912) figured two fragmentary specimens as Mollisoniarara; these were first reinterpreted by Simonetta (1964) within a new genus Parahabelia rara, along with three additional specimens that he thought were related. However, Simonetta and Delle Cave (1975) considered that among those five specimens, the two originally figured by Walcott as M? rara had to be synonymized with M. symmetrica and the other three had to be placed within a new genus and species called Thelxiope palaeothalassia, a name in use since then.



This species has a relatively wide cephalon and seven segments and resembles Habelia in overall shape. However, in T. palaeothalassia, each segment bears a single prominent spine pointing dorsally. The last segment is armed with a very long pointed telson.


Thelxiope is extremely rare, with only four known specimens.

Maximum Size:
43 mm


Life habits: Nektobenthic, Mobile
Feeding strategies: Unknown
Ecological Interpretations:

Thelxiope is too poorly known to allow detailed studies of its ecology.


SIMONETTA, A. M. 1964. Osservazioni sugli arthropodi non trilobiti della “Burgess Shale” (Cambriano medio). Monitore Zoologico Italiano, 72 (3-4: III Contributo: I Generi MolariaHabeliaEmeraldellaParahabelia (Nov.) Emeraldoides (Nov.): 215-231.

SIMONETTA, A. M. AND L. DELLE CAVE. 1975. The Cambrian non-trilobite arthropods from the Burgess shale of British Columbia: A study of their comparative morphology, taxonomy and evolutionary significance. Palaeontographia Italica, 69: 1-37.

WALCOTT, C. 1912. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian Branchiopoda, Malacostraca, Trilobita and Merostomata. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(6):145-228.

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