The Burgess Shale

Wahpia insolens

An small alga with slender branches

Wahpia insolens (USNM 35424) – Syntype. Specimen showing typical mode of branching. Specimen length = 90 mm. Specimen wet – direct light (left), polarized light (right). Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. PHOTOS: JEAN-BERNARD CARON

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Rhodophyta
Class: Non applicable
Remarks:

No revisions of this alga have been published since its original description by Walcott (1919) and its affinities remain uncertain.

Species name: Wahpia insolens
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919
Etymology:

Wahpia – unspecified.

insolens – from the Latin insolens, “unusual, different.” This probably refers to the unusual branches of this alga.

Type Specimens: Syntypes –USNM35423-35424 (W. insolens); Holotypes –USNM35413 (W. mimica);USNM35425 (W. virgata) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: W. mimica Walcott, 1919 and W. virgata Walcott, 1919 from the Walcott Quarry.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

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

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Wahpia was described by Charles Walcott (1919) as a possible red alga. However, like all the algae from the Burgess Shale, it awaits a modern redescription.

Description:

Morphology:

This simple alga has a long central stem with long narrow branches diverging from it at a 45 degree angle; these branches give rise to smaller branches with up to two additional branchings. The central stem is hollow. W. mimica and W. virgata differ from W. insolens based on size differences of the central stem and the number and flexibility of the branches.

Abundance:

Wahpia is very rare and represents only 0.06% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
90 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Epibenthic, Sessile
Feeding strategies: Primary producer
Ecological Interpretations:

The morphology of this alga suggests it was attached to the sea floor rather than being free floating.

References:

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

WALCOTT, C. 1919. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology IV. Middle Cambrian Algae. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(5): 217-260.

Other Links:

None