The Burgess Shale

Zacanthoides romingeri

Zacanthoides romingeri (figure 3) illustrated by Rominger (1887) as Embolimus spinosa.

Taxonomy:

Class: Trilobita (Order: Corynexochida)
Remarks:

Trilobites are extinct euarthropods, probably stem lineage representatives of the Mandibulata, which includes crustaceans, myriapods, and hexapods (Scholtz and Edgecombe, 2006).

Species name: Zacanthoides romingeri
Described by: Rominger
Description date: 1887
Etymology:

Zacanthoides – probably from the Greek z(a), “very,” and akanthion, “thistle” or “porcupine” or “hedgehog,” and oides, “resembling;” thus, very thistle- or porcupine-like.

romingeri – after Carl Rominger, a Michigan paleontologist who in 1887 published the first descriptions of trilobites from Mount Stephen.

Type Specimens: Type status under review – UMMP 4871 (2 specimens), University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: Zacanthoides sexdentatus, Z. submuticus, Z. longipygus, Z. planifrons, Z. divergens, all from older and younger Middle Cambrian rocks on Mount Stephen, Mount Odaray, and Park Mountain (Rasetti, 1951).

Other deposits: other species elsewhere in North America.

Age & Localities:

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

The Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

In 1887 Carl Rominger published an engraving of a nearly complete and markedly spiny trilobite and named it Embolimus spinosa. In 1908 Charles Walcott introduced the combination Zacanthoides spinosus for the Mount Stephen species and for a similar trilobite from Nevada. The next change came in 1942, when Charles Resser at the United States National Museum asserted that the Mount Stephen species was sufficiently distinct that it required a new name. Resser chose to honour the man who first formally described many of the common Mount Stephen trilobites, and Zacanthoides romingeri remains the combination in use today.

Description:

Morphology:

Hard parts: adult dorsal exoskeletons can reach up to 6 cm in length, tapering back from a large crescentic cephalon through a thorax of nine segments, to a relatively small rounded-triangular pygidium with long marginal spines.

The wide free cheeks bear strong genal spines; short, thorn-like intragenal spines mark the posterior corners of the fixed cheeks. The glabella is long and narrow, slightly expanded forwards. There are four pairs of lateral glabellar furrows; the anterior two pairs are weaker and angled to the front, the stronger posterior two are angled back. Very long narrow eyes that bow strongly outward are located far back on the cephalon. The occipital ring extends rearward into a strong, broad-based spine. Long, blade-shaped terminal spines on the wide pleurae curve progressively more backwards. A slender needle-like spine arises from the axial ring of the eighth thoracic segment. There are four pygidial axial rings; five pairs of marginal spines, each successively shorter, are directed rearwards and extend beyond the tip of the pygidium.

Unmineralized anatomy: not known.

Abundance:

Zacanthoides romingeri is moderately abundant at the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds but absent from Fossil Ridge. Complete trilobites with the free cheeks in place are very scarce, and this species is mostly found as disarticulated sclerites. Its distinctive characteristics, however, usually allow even isolated pieces to be readily identified.

Maximum Size:
60 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Zacanthoides romingeri adults very likely walked along the sea bed. The overall spinosity of this species may have served as a deterrent to predators, or possibly helped to break up the visual outline of the animal, making it harder to see on the sea floor (Rudkin, 1996).

References:

RASETTI, F. 1951. Middle Cambrian stratigraphy and faunas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 116 (5): 1-277.

RESSER, C. E. 1942. Fifth contribution to nomenclature of Cambrian trilobites. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 101 (15): 1-58.

ROMINGER, C. 1887. Description of primordial fossils from Mount Stephens, N. W. Territory of Canada. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1887: 12-19.

RUDKIN, D. M. 1996. The Trilobite Beds of Mount Stephen, Yoho National Park, p. 59-68. In R. Ludvigsen (ed.), Life in Stone – A Natural History of British Columbia’s Fossils. UBC Press, Vancouver.

RUDKIN, D. M. 2009. The Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, p. 90-102. In J.-B. Caron and D. Rudkin (eds.), A Burgess Shale Primer – History, Geology, and Research Highlights. The Burgess Shale Consortium, Toronto.

SCHOLTZ, G. AND G. D. EDGECOMBE. 2006. The evolution of arthropod heads: reconciling morphological, developmental and palaeontological evidence. Development Genes and Evolution, 216: 395-415.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1888. Cambrian fossils from Mount Stephens, Northwest Territory of Canada. American Journal of Science, Series 3, 36: 163-166.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1908. Mount Stephen rocks and fossils. Canadian Alpine Journal, 1:232-248.

Other Links:

Yuknessia simplex

3D animation of Yuknessia simplex.
© Phlesch Bubble

Taxonomy:

Class: Non applicable
Remarks:

Walcott (1919) considered Yuknessia as a green alga, a view shared by Conway Morris and Robison (1988). However, no revision of the type material from the Burgess Shale has been published since its original description and its affinities remain uncertain.

Species name: Yuknessia simplex
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919
Etymology:

Yuknessia – from Yukness Mountain (2,847m), a Peak in Yoho National Park, east of the Burgess Shale.

simplex – from the Latin simplex, meaning “simple,” in reference to the simple morphology of this alga.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM35406 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none

Other deposits: Yuknessia sp. from the Lower Cambrian Niutitan Formation in China (Yang et al., 2003).

Age & Localities:

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

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge and the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: Y. simplex is known from the Middle Cambrian Spence Shale and the Marjum and Wheeler Formations in Utah (Conway Morris and Robison, 1988).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

This genus was described by Charles Walcott (1919) as a possible green alga. However, like all the algae from the Burgess Shale, it awaits a modern redescription (see Dalyia). Conway Morris and Robison (1988) described specimens of this species from several Utah deposits.

Description:

Morphology:

This alga has long branches emerging from a short but wide hollow stem covered of small conical elements or plates. The plates were the attachment sites of the branches. The branches show strong similarities with Dalyia and suggest the two species might be synonymous, with Yuknessia representing the main stem structure of the Dalyia branches.

Abundance:

Yuknessia is very rare and represents only 0.04% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
30 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The wide stem suggests this species was attached to the sea floor within the photic zone 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.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. More soft-bodied animals from the Middle Cambrian of Utah and British Columbia. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, 122 p.

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

YANG, R., W. ZHANG, L. JIANG AND H. GAO. 2003. Chengjiang biota from the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Formation, Zunyi County, Guizhou Province, China. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 77: 145-150.

Other Links:

None

Wiwaxia corrugata

3D animation of Wiwaxia corrugata grazing on Morania confluens.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade halwaxiids (stem group molluscs)
Remarks:

The relationship of Wiwaxia is hotly debated; its similarities to the molluscs have been highlighted (Conway Morris, 1985; Scheltema et al., 2003; Caron et al., 2006; Caron et al., 2007), but Matthew’s original view that it was related to the annelid worms (Matthew, 1899) still finds some adherents (Butterfield, 1990; Conway Morris and Peel, 1995; Butterfield, 2006; 2008). It is also possible that Wiwaxia branched off before the molluscs and annelids diverged (Eibye-Jacobsen, 2004). Wiwaxia has recently been placed in a group called the halwaxiids, along with the halkieriids, Orthrozanclus, and Odontogriphus (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Species name: Wiwaxia corrugata
Described by: Matthew
Description date: 1899
Etymology:

Wiwaxia – from Wiwaxy Peaks (2,703 m) in Yoho National Park. The word wiwaxy is originally from the Stoney First Nation Nakoda language, meaning “windy.”

corrugata – from the Latin corrugis, “folded, or wrinkled,” in reference to the wrinkled aspect of the sclerites.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM8596 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none described, although sclerites have been reported from a number of Middle Cambrian deposits extending from northern Canada (Butterfield, 1994) to China (Zhao et al., 1994).

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds, Tulip Beds (S7) and Collins Quarry on Mount Stephen. Additional smaller localities are known on Mount Field and Mount Odaray.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

In an early review of fossils collected from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen by Walker, Canadian palaeontologist G. F. Matthew (1899) described several forms he thought represented tubes of various annelid worms, including one he named Orthotheca corrugata. At the time, Matthew did not know this particular fossil was only part of a much larger organism. It was only when Walcott (1911) discovered articulated and much better preserved specimens from the Phyllopod Bed that the morphology of this species became clearer. Walcott placed corrugata in his new genus Wiwaxia and interpreted it as a polychaete annelid worm (Walcott, 1911). The single best specimen of Walker’s “Orthotheca corrugata” remained unrecognized until it was “rediscovered” in the ROM collections in 1977.

Walcott’s interpretation was called into question in a comprehensive reassessment of the genus (Conway Morris, 1985), and Conway Morris’s link between Wiwaxia mouthparts and the molluscan radula was built upon by Scheltema et al. (2003) and Caron et al. (2006). Butterfield (1990), however, defended an annelid affinity mostly based on the study of individual sclerites, first at the crown-, and later at the stem-group level (Butterfield, 2003; 2006), but further work suggested that the evidence does not conclusively support a close relationship with annelids (Eibye-Jacobsen, 2004). A connection with the halkieriids was drawn early on (Bengtson and Morris, 1984; Conway Morris and Peel, 1995), and expanded more recently (Conway Morris and Caron, 2007).

Other studies have dealt more specifically with the ecology and taphonomy of this animal. The finely spaced patterning of ridges on the scale may have given Wiwaxia an iridescent aspect in life (Parker, 1998). Wiwaxia has proven useful in calculating the extent of decay in fossil assemblages (Caron and Jackson, 2006) and in reconstructing the longer term taphonomic processes responsible for the preservation of the Burgess Shale fossils (Butterfield et al., 2007).

Description:

Morphology:

Wiwaxia corrugata is a slug-like organism up to 5.5 cm in length almost entirely covered (except on the ventral surface) with an array of scale-like elements referred to as sclerites and spines. The body is roughly oval, and lacks evidence of segmentation. The body-covering sclerites are arranged in about 50 rows. In addition, two rows of 7–11 blade-like spines are present on the dorsal surface. Spines and sclerites were inserted directly into the body wall. Wiwaxia’s feeding apparatus consists of two (in rare cases three) toothed plates that have been compared to a molluscan radula or annelid jaws.

Abundance:

Wiwaxia is mostly known from the Walcott Quarry where it is relatively common, representing 0.9% of the specimens counted in the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
55 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The similarity of Wiwaxia’s feeding apparatus to that of Odontogriphus suggests that it too fed on the cyanobacterial Morania mats growing on the Cambrian sea floor. Its sclerite armour-plating and long spines, sometimes found broken, suggest that it was targeted by unidentified predators.

References:

BENGSTON, S. AND S. CONWAY MORRIS, 1984. A comparative study of Lower Cambrian Halkieria and Middle Cambrian Wiwaxia. Lethaia, 17:307-329.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 1990. A reassessment of the enigmatic Burgess Shale fossil Wiwaxia corrugata (Matthew) and its relationship to the polychaete Canadia spinosa Walcott. Paleobiology: 287-303.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 1994. Burgess Shale-type fossils from a Lower Cambrian shallow-shelf sequence in northwestern Canada. Nature, 369(6480): 477-479.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2003. Exceptional fossil preservation and the Cambrian Explosion. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43:166-177.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2006. Hooking some stem-group “worms”: fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 28: 1161-1166.

BUTTERFIELD, N. J. 2008. An early Cambrian radula. Journal of Paleontology, 82(3): 543-554.

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

CARON, J.-B., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN, 2006. A soft-bodied mollusc with radula from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Nature, 442(7099): 159-163.

CARON, J.-B., A. H. SCHELTEMA, C. SCHANDER AND D. RUDKIN. 2007. Reply to Butterfield on stem-group “worms:” fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays, 29:200-202.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1985. The Middle Cambrian metazoan Wiwaxia corrugata (Matthew) from the Burgess Shale and Ogygopsis Shale Shale, British Columbia, Canada. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 307(1134): 507-582.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND J.-B. CARON, 2007. Halwaxiids and the Early Evolution of the Lophotrochozoans. Science, 315(5816): 1255-1258.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND J. S. PEEL, 1995. Articulated halkieriids from the Lower Cambrian of North Greenland and their role in early protostome evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 347(1321): 305-358.

EIBYE-JACOBSEN, D. 2004. A reevaluation of Wiwaxia and the polychaetes of the Burgess Shale. Lethaia, 37(3): 317-335.

MATTHEW, G. F. 1899. Studies on Cambrian Faunas, No. 3. Upper Cambrian fauna, Mount Stephen, British Columbia. The trilobites and worms. Transactions of the Royal Society, 5: 39-66.

PARKER, A. R. 1998. Colour in Burgess Shale animals and the effect of light on evolution in the Cambrian. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265(1400): 967.

SCHELTEMA, A. H., K. KERTH AND A. M. KUZIRIAN, 2003. Original molluscan radula: Comparisons among Aplacophora, Polyplacophora, Gastropoda, and the Cambrian fossil Wiwaxia corrugata. Journal of Morphology, 257(2): 219-245.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(2): 109-144.

ZHAO, Y.-l., Y. QIAN AND X.-S. LI, 1994. Wiwaxia from Early-Middle Cambrian Kaili Formation in Taijiang, Guizhou. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 33:359-366.

Other Links:

http://www.paleobiology.si.edu/burgess/wiwaxia.html

Wahpia insolens

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:

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:

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

Vauxia gracilenta

3D animation of Vauxia bellula and other sponges (Choia ridleyiDiagoniella cyathiformisEiffelia globosaHazelia confertaPirania muricata, and Wapkia elongata) and Chancelloria eros a sponge-like form covered of star-shaped spines.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Demospongea (Order: Verongida)
Remarks:

Vauxia was placed within the hexactinellids by Walcott in his 1920 original description but Rigby (1980) transferred the genus and family to the Demospongea. Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.

Species name: Vauxia gracilenta
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Vauxia – from Mount Vaux (3,319 m), a mountain Peak in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. The name refers to William Sandys Wright Vaux (1818-1885) an antiquarian at the British Museum.

gracilenta – from the Latin gracilis, “slender,” referring to the delicate structure of the sponge.

Type Specimens: Lectotypes –USNM66515 (V. gracilenta),USNM66508 (V. bellula),USNM66517 (V. densa),USNM66520 (V. venata), in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA. Holotype –ROM53572 (V. irregulara) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: V. bellula Walcott, 1920; V. densa Walcott, 1920; V. irregulara Rigby and Collins, 2004; V. venata Walcott, 1920.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

Burgess Shale and vicinity: Vauxia species are known in the Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge, the Trilobite Beds, Tulip Beds (S7) and the Collins Quarry on Mount Stephen, and smaller sites on Mount Field and Odaray Mountain. Vauxia is also known from Monarch in Kootenay National Park.

Other deposits: V. bellula Walcott, 1920 from the Middle Cambrian Wheeler and Marjum Formations in Utah (Rigby et al., 2010); V. magna Rigby, 1980 from the Middle Cambrian Spence Shale in Utah (Rigby, 1980).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

This sponge was originally described by Walcott in 1920. The genus was reviewed by Rigby (1980) and the species redescribed by Rigby (1986) and Rigby and Collins (2004) in their examination of the Burgess Shale sponges.

Description:

Morphology:

Specimens of Vauxia gracilenta can range from simple unbranched forms to more complex branching forms and reach up to 8 cm in height. Each branch is deeply conical and almost cylindrical, with a simple open central cavity (spongocoel) ending in a rounded of flat opening (osculum). The skeleton is double layered with a thin dermal layer and an inner layer (endosomal). The dermal layer has small openings (ostia) and is composed of a dense network of ladder-like fibers supported by radial fibers from the inner layer. The inner layer forms a regular reticulated net-like skeleton of fibers with 4-6 sided polygons which is characteristic of the genus and species. The fibrous elements (spongin) represent tough collagen proteins. There is no evidence of siliceous spicules in the skeleton.

The different species have been identified mostly based on variations of the skeletal elements and the shape of the branches. Some species can reach up to at least 15 cm in height (V. bellulaV. densa).

Abundance:

Vauxia is relatively common in the Raymond Quarry and other sites on Mount Stephen but is rare in the Walcott Quarry where it represents less than 0.05% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
80 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

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

References:

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. 1980. The new Middle Cambrian sponge Vauxia magna from the Spence Shale of Northern Utah and taxonomic position of the Vauxiidae. Journal of Paleontology, 54(1): 234-240.

RIGBY, J. K. 1986. Sponges of the Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian), British Columbia. Palaeontographica Canadiana, 2: 1-105 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.

RIGBY, J. K., S. B. CHURCH AND N. K. ANDERSON. 2010. Middle Cambrian Sponges from the Drum Mountains and House Range in Western Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 84: 66-78.

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

Other Links:

None

Ulospongiella ancyla

Ulospongiella ancyla (ROM 43830) – Holotype. Nearly complete individual. Specimen height = 19 mm. Specimen dry – direct light (left), wet – polarized light (right). Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. PHOTOS: JEAN-BERNARD CARON

Taxonomy:

Class: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Remarks:

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

Species name: Ulospongiella ancyla
Described by: Rigby and Collins
Description date: 2004
Etymology:

Ulospongiella – from the Greek oulus, “wooly or curly,” and spongia, “sponge.” The name refers to the curled or curved spicules forming the skeleton.

ancyla – from the Greek anklyos, “bent or hooked.” The name makes reference to the curved spicules.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM43830 (wrongly referred asROM48830 in Rigby and Collins 2004) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Ulospongiella was described by Rigby and Collins in 2004 based on collections made by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Description:

Morphology:

Ulospongiella is a small sponge less than 2 cm in height. Its shape is subcyclindrical with a rounded base. Most spicules forming the skeleton are pointed at both ends (oxeas). These oxeas are strongly curved or hooked shape and form a relatively dense mesh. A few coarser and longer spicules with a round base extend upward from the wall. There is no clear indication of canals within the sponge there is no evidence of a central cavity (spongocoel).

Abundance:

Only three specimens are known, all from the Trilobite Beds.

Maximum Size:
19 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

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

References:

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.

Other Links:

None

Tubulella flagellum

Tubulella flagellum (ROM 59942) – Proposed Lectotype. Figures 1a of Matthew (1899) and photograph of original specimen (right). Approximate specimen length = 80 mm. Specimen dry – direct light. Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. PHOTOS: JEAN-BERNARD CARON

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group cnidarians)
Remarks:

This fossil was originally thought to represent the tube of some sedentary polychaete worms (Matthew, 1899; Howell, 1949), but has more recently been compared to the sessile polyp stage of a scyphozoan jellyfish that builds tapered, chitinous tubes fixed to the substrate by an attachment disc (Van Iten et al., 2002).

Species name: Tubulella flagellum
Described by: Matthew
Description date: 1899
Etymology:

Tubulella – from the latin tubulus, “tube, or tubule,” and the suffix –ella, denoting “little.”

flagellum – the Latin for “whip,” in allusion to the long, tapering form of the tubular theca.

Type Specimens: Syntype–ROM59942 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: Many shared similarities suggest that other thecate Burgess Shale fossils such as Byronia annulataSphenothallus sp., Cambrorhytium major, and Cfragilis may be related to Tubulella.

Other deposits: Other species occur worldwide in rocks from the Cambrian period.

Age & Localities:

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

The Trilobite Beds, Tulip Beds (S7) and additional smaller localities on Mount Stephen. The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge, Mount Odaray and Monarch Cirque.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

In August 1887 the Toronto meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was followed by a special geological rail tour to western Canada organized by Byron Edmund Walker (a prominent Canadian banker). One of the excursion highlights was a visit to the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, after which Walker loaned his personal collection of Mount Stephen fossils to Canada’s leading Cambrian palaeontologist, George F. Matthew, of Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1899, Matthew published a series of new descriptions based on this material, including Urotheca flagellum, a rare form he interpreted as whip-shaped worm tube, illustrated in two engravings. Walker donated these fossils to the University of Toronto in 1904, and in 1913 they were transferred to the new Royal Ontario Museum of Palaeontology. In 1949, American palaeontologist B. F. Howell found that Matthew’s genus name Urotheca was already in use for a living reptile, so he substituted it for the new name Tubulella. Subsequently, this and similar fossils were reinterpreted as cnidarian polyp thecae. The single best specimen of Walker’s Urotheca flagellum remained unrecognized until it was “rediscovered” in the ROM collections in 2010.

Description:

Morphology:

The chitinous or chitinophosphatic tube (theca) of Tubulella flagellum is a very long and slender cone, with a maximum diameter of about 4 mm. The thecae may be almost straight, or show varying degrees of curvature. The thecal wall is relatively thick and often appears densely black against the shale matrix. The external surface shows very fine transverse growth lines, but usually no strong annular ridges. Often, two or more lengthwise creases or ridges were formed as the result of the crushing and compaction of the tube’s original circular or oval cross section. Some specimens possess a combination of features seen in Tubulella and Byronia, with very narrow thecae bearing both annulae and longitudinal creases. Small clusters of such Tubulella-like thecae are occasionally found closely associated with Byronia annulata, but it is not known whether these were asexually generated “buds” or discrete organisms growing attached to the larger tubes. No soft tissues of Tubulella flagellum have been described to date.

Abundance:

Uncommon in the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen. Relatively common in the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge where it represents about 0.25% of the specimens in the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
100 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The theca of Tubulella was likely attached to the substrate using an apical disc which is usually broken off. The absence of soft tissue preservation makes the assignment to a particular feeding strategy tentative. By comparison with forms such as Cambrorhytium, a carnivorous or suspension feeding habit seems possible.

References:

BISCHOFF, C. O. 1989. Byroniida new order from early Palaeozoic strata of eastern Australia (Cnidaria, thecate scyphopolyps). Senkenbergiana Lethaea, 69(5/6): 467-521.

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

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. More soft-bodied animals and algae from the Middle Cambrian of Utah and British Columbia. The University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Paper 122: 48 pp.

HOWELL, B. F. 1949. New hydrozoan and brachiopod and new genus of worms from the Ordovician Schenectady Formation of New York. Bulletin of the Wagner Free Institute of Science, 24(1): 8 pp.

MATTHEW, G. F. 1899. Studies on Cambrian faunas, No. 3. Upper Cambrian fauna of Mount Stephen, British Columbia. The trilobites and worms. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Series 2, 4: 39-66.

RASETTI, F. 1951. Middle Cambrian stratigraphy and faunas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 116(5): 277 pp.

VAN ITEN, H., M.-Y. MAO-YAN, AND D.COLLINS 2002. First report of Sphenothallus Hall, 1847 in the Middle Cambrian. Journal of Paleontology, 76: 902-905.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1908. Mount Stephen rocks and fossils. Canadian Alpine Journal, 1: 232-248.

ZHU, M.-Y., H. VAN ITEN, R. S. COX, Y.-L. ZHAO AND B.-D. ERDTMANN. 2000. Occurrence of Byronia Matthew and Sphenothallus Hall in the Lower Cambrian of China. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 74: 227-238.

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Stephenospongia magnipora

Stephenospongia magnipora (ROM 43127) – Holotype. Fragment of the only known specimen of the species showing large holes in the wall of this sponge. Specimen height = 44 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. PHOTO: JEAN-BERNARD CARON

Taxonomy:

Class: Hexactinellida (Order: Reticulosa)
Remarks:

Stephenospongia is placed in the Family Hintzespongiidae (primitive hexactinellids). Hexactinellid sponges (glass sponges) have a skeleton composed of four to six-pointed spicules. They are considered to be an early branch within the Porifera phylum due to their distinctive composition.

Species name: Stephenospongia magnipora
Described by: Rigby
Description date: 1986
Etymology:

Stephenospongia – from Mount Stephen (3,199 m), a mountain peak in Yoho National Park, named after George Stephen (1829 – 1921), first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Latin spongia, meaning “sponge.”

magnipora – from the Latin magnus, “great,” and porus, “pore.” The name makes reference to the large pores present in the skeleton of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM43127 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

The Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Stephenospongia was described by Rigby (1986) (see also Rigby and Collins 2004) based on a single specimen discovered by the Royal Ontario Museum in 1982.

Description:

Morphology:

Stephenospongia has a conical and almost cylindrical shape. The skeleton is composed of six rayed spicules (called hexactines) typical of the hexactinellid sponges. The spicules mesh together to form a single layer and are arranged in an irregular fashion especially around holes in the sponge wall. Prominent holes organized in vertical and horizontal rows are separated by tracts of spicules with ray lengths reaching more than one centimetre. The basal and top parts are not preserved.

Abundance:

Only a single specimen is known and comes from the Trilobite Beds.

Maximum Size:
44 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

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

References:

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.

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Sphenothallus sp.

Taxonomy:

Sphenothallus sp. (GSC 134789). Fragment of a large specimen showing longitudinal thickenings clearly differentiated near the aperture area (to the right). A Micromitra (Dictyonina) brachiopod is attached to the lower part of the tube. Approximate specimen length = 50 mm. Specimen dry – direct light. Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA. PHOTO: JEAN-BERNARD CARON

Class: Unranked clade (stem group cnidarians)
Remarks:

Sphenothallus has been compared to some form of tubiculous annelid worm or the sessile polyp stage of a scyphozoan jellyfish that builds tapered, chitinous tubes fixed to the substrate by an attachment disc (Van Iten et al., 2002).

Species name: Sphenothallus sp.
Described by: Van Iten et al.
Description date: 2002
Etymology:

Sphenothallus – from the Greek sphen, “wedge”, and thallos, “branch.”

Species name not determined.

Type Specimens: Not applicable
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: Many shared similarities suggest that other thecate Burgess Shale fossils such as Byronia annulataCambrorhytium majorCfragilis and Tubulella flagellum, may be related to Sphenothallus sp.

Other deposits: Other species occur worldwide in rocks from the Cambrian to the Silurian periods. Sphenothallus is also known in the Kaili Formation (Zhu et al., 2000).

Age & Localities:

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

The Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Two specimens from the Trilobite Beds were illustrated in 2002 (Van Iten et al.). A third previously unrecognized specimen was identified in the Geological Survey of Canada collections in Ottawa (Billings collection) in the Spring of 2010. Owing to the relatively low degree of morphological variations among all known species, it is not currently possible to assign the Burgess Shale form to any particular species without better preserved specimens.

Description:

Morphology:

The chitinophosphatic tube (theca) of Sphenothallus consists of longitudinal thickenings which are particularly obvious towards the aperture area. The tube is gently curved and does not seem to branch. The maximum diameter of the largest specimen is about 4 mm for a length of about 75 mm. A thin wall is present between the longitudinal thickenings and terminates in a smooth margin near the aperture, a couple of millimeters beyond the longitudinal thickenings. The tube is roughly circular in the apical region and is very slender, with the two longitudinal thickenings less differentiated in this area. The surface of the entire tube including thickenings is smooth with no evidence of ridges or annulations. All three specimens lack the apical ends, so it is not evident that this species had a holdfast and there is no evidence of soft-tissue preservation.

Abundance:

Only three specimens known from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

Maximum Size:
75 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The theca of Sphenothallus was likely attached to the substrate via an apical disc as can be seen in other better known species. The absence of soft tissue preservation makes the assignment to a particular feeding strategy tentative. By comparison with possible related forms such as Cambrorhytium, a carnivorous or suspension feeding habit seems possible.

References:

VAN ITEN, H., M.-Y. ZHU AND D. COLLINS. 2002. First report of Sphenothallus Hall, 1847 in the Middle Cambrian. Journal of Paleontology, 76: 902-905.

ZHU, M.-Y., H. VAN ITEN, R. S. COX, Y.-L. ZHAO AND B.-D. ERDTMANN. 2000. Occurrence of Byronia Matthew and Sphenothallus Hall in the Lower Cambrian of China. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 74: 227-238.

Other Links:

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Selkirkia columbia

3D animation of Selkirkia columbia.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group priapulids)
Remarks:

Selkirkia has been compared to the nemathelminth worms (Maas et al., 2007), but most analyses support a relationship with the priapulids at a stem-group level (Harvey et al., 2010; Wills, 1998).

Species name: Selkirkia columbia
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911
Etymology:

Selkirkia – from the Selkirk Mountains, a mountain range in southeastern British Columbia.

columbia – from British Columbia, where the Burgess Shale is located.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM57624 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: The genus Selkirkia ranges from the Lower to the Middle Cambrian and is represented by several species, including S. sinica from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang Biota (Luo et al., 1999; Maas et al., 2007), S. pennsylvanica from the Lower Cambrian Kinzers Formation (Resser and Howell, 1938), Selkirkia sp. cf. and S. spencei from the Middle Cambrian Spence Shale of Utah (Resser, 1939; Conway Morris and Robison, 1986, 1988), and S. willoughbyi from the Middle Cambrian Marjum Formation of Utah (Conway Morris and Robison, 1986).

Age & Localities:

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

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge, and smaller localities on Mount Field and Mount Odaray. The Trilobite Beds, the Collins Quarry, the Tulip Beds (S7) and smaller localities on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: The Middle Cambrian Spence Shale of Utah (Resser, 1939; Conway Morris and Robison, 1986, 1988).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Charles Walcott (1908) illustrated a single specimen of a simple tube that he named “Orthotheca major.” He interpreted the fossil as the tube of a polychaete worm, along with another famous species, “O. corrugata,” described by Matthew a decade earlier. O. corrugata is now referred to as Wiwaxia corrugata, which is not the tube of a worm but the scale of an armoured mollusc! The original specimen of “O. major” came from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen, but it was not until the discovery of complete specimens from Fossil Ridge showing soft-bodied worms within the tubes that more details about this animal became available. Walcott (1911) created a new genus name Selkirkia to accommodate the new fossil material. In addition to the type species, S. major, he named two new species, S. gracilis and S. fragilis. In a revision of Walcott’s collections and other fossils discovered by the Geological Survey of Canada, Conway Morris (1977) synonymised Walcott’s three species into one that he called S. columbia, which is still in use today. S. columbia was described as a primitive priapulid worm (Conway Morris, 1977); later studies showed that it belongs to the priapulid stem group (Wills, 1998; Harvey et al., 2010).

Description:

Morphology:

Selkirkia lived in a tube and could reach up to 6 centimetres in length. The body of the worm itself is similar to most priapulids in having a trunk (which remained in the tube) and an anterior mouthpart that could be inverted into the trunk, called a proboscis. The proboscis has different series of spines along its length and is radially symmetrical. Small body extensions called papillae are present along the anterior part of the trunk and probably helped in anchoring the trunk in the tube. The gut is straight and the anus is terminal. The unmineralized tube is slightly tapered, open at both ends, and bears fine transverse lineations.

Abundance:

Selkirkia is the most abundant priapulid in the Walcott Quarry community, representing 2.7% of the entire community (Caron and Jackson, 2008); thousands of specimens are known, mostly isolated tubes.

Maximum Size:
60 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The well developed proboscis and strong spines suggest a carnivorous feeding habit. Comparisons with modern tube-building priapulids suggest Selkirkia was capable of only limited movement, and spend most of the time buried vertically or at an angle to the sediment-water interface, where they might have “trap fed” on live prey. Empty tubes were often used as a substrate for other organisms to colonize, for example, brachiopods, sponges and primitive echinoderms (see Echmatocrinus).

References:

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

CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1977. Fossil priapulid worms. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 20: 1-95.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1986. Middle Cambrian priapulids and other soft-bodied fossils from Utah and Spain. The University of Kansas paleontological contributions, 117: 1-22.

CONWAY MORRIS, S. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. More soft-bodied animals and algae from the Middle Cambrian of Utah and British Columbia. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Paper, 122: 23-48.

HARVEY, T. H. P., X. DONG AND P. C. J. DONOGHUE. 2010. Are palaeoscolecids ancestral ecdysozoans? Evolution & Development, 12(2): 177-200.

LUO, H., S. HU, L. CHEN, S. ZHANG AND Y. TAO. 1999. Early Cambrian Chengjiang fauna from Kunming region, China. Yunnan Science and Technology Press, Kunming, 162 p.

MAAS, A., D. HUANG, J. CHEN, D. WALOSZEK AND A. BRAUN. 2007. Maotianshan-Shale nemathelminths – Morphology, biology, and the phylogeny of Nemathelminthes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 254(1-2): 288-306.

RESSER, C. E. AND B. F. HOWELL. 1938. Lower Cambrian Olenellus Zone of the Appalachians. Geological Society of America, Bulletin, 49: 195-248.

RESSER, C. E. 1939. The Spence Shale and its fauna. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 97(12):1-29.

WALCOTT, C. 1908. Mount Stephen rocks and fossils. Canadian Alpine Journal, 1: 232-248.

WALCOTT, C. 1911. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(5): 109-145.

WILLS, M. A. 1998. Cambrian and Recent disparity: the picture from priapulids. Paleobiology, 24(2): 177-199.

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