The Burgess Shale

Balhuticaris voltae

Balhuticaris voltae, holotype ROMIP 66238

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Marble Canyon
Phylum: Marble Canyon
Higher Taxonomic Assignment: Hymenocarines, Family: Odaraiidae
Species name: Balhuticaris voltae
Remarks:

Hymenocarines were early arthropods with bivalved carapaces and mandibles, forming the bulk of the first mandibulates (represented today by myriapods, crustaceans and insects) (Aria and Caron 2017; Vannier et al. 2018). In many hymenocarines, including Balhuticaris, determining the exact number and types of appendages in their head remains difficult, which hinders a detailed understanding of the evolutionary relationships inside this group. Balhuticaris most probably belongs to the family Odaraiidae, a group of hymenocarines with highly multisegmented bodies, reduced or absent antennae and highly multisegmented legs.

Described by: Izquierdo-López & Caron
Description date: 2022
Etymology:

Balhuticarisfrom the mythological creature Balhut, a giant aquatic animal in some Persian cosmologies, and the latin caris, meaning “crab” or “shrimp”, and voltae- from the Catalan word volta, an arch-like structure.

Type Specimens: Holotype ROMIP66238
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: None
Other deposits: None

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan Stage, upper part of the Burgess Shale Formation (Burgess Shale) (around 505 million years old)
Principal localities:

Marble Canyon, Tokumm Creek

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Balhuticaris has been found from both the Marble Canyon and the Tokumm Creek localities of the Burgess Shale during several expeditions between 2012 to 2022. The different specimens of Balhuticaris were originally not recognized as belonging to the same organism. Instead, these were identified as different undescribed euarthropods or potential radiodonts (Nanglu et al. 2020). Balhuticaris was formally described in 2022 (Izquierdo-López and Caron 2022).

Description:

Morphology:

Balhuticaris is a large bivalved arthropod that can reach up to 25 cm in length. The carapace only covers the first quarter of the total body length. It has a dome-like shape. In frontal view, the carapace looks like an arch: each valve extends towards the ventral side of the animal, surpassing the length of the legs. The dorsal side of the carapace extends towards the posterior side of the animal, giving the valves a “bean-like” shape in lateral view. The head bears a pair of well-developed, pedunculate, bilobate eyes. The head also bears one pair of short antennulae and a sclerotized structure that may represent a head sclerite. The body is highly multisegmented, with approximately 110 segments posterior to the head. Approximately the first ten segments are longer, and bear legs that become smaller towards the head. All segments bear a pair of legs, each subdivided into two branches (biramous): a walking leg (endopod) and a paddle-like flap (exopod). The endopod is thin and subdivided into around 14 segments. The exopod is ovoid, almost as long as the endopod. The last segment is longer than the rest, and has a flattened triangular shape. This segment bears two paddle-like legs (caudal rami). Each of these is subdivided into three segments, bears three spines on their outer edge and elongated filaments (setae) on their posterior edge.

Abundance:

Balhuticaris is rare, only known from a dozen specimens from the Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek sites.

Maximum Size:
About 25 cm

Ecology:

Life habits: Marble Canyon
Feeding strategies: Marble Canyon
Ecological Interpretations:

Balhuticaris is the largest bivalved arthropod to date, surpassing in length Tuzoia (Vannier et al. 2007) and Nereocaris exilis (Legg et al. 2012), and rivalling other arthropods from the Burgess Shale, such as radiodonts, including the largest complete Anomalocaris (Briggs 1975) and Cambroraster (Moysiuk and Caron 2019), but smaller than the estimated 50 cm long Titanokorys (Caron and Moysiuk 2021). The general anatomy of Balhuticaris, including its elongated body and large segmented caudal rami, indicates that it was probably a good swimmer. It was hypothesized that it could be swimming upside-down (Izquierdo-López and Caron 2022), similar to its relatives Fibulacaris and Odaraia (Briggs 1981; Izquierdo-López and Caron 2019). Balhuticaris’ feeding could have ranged from suspension-feeder to predator (Izquierdo-López and Caron 2022), similar to some of the largest fairy shrimps today (Fryer 1966).

References:

  • ARIA, C. and CARON, J. B. 2017. Burgess Shale fossils illustrate the origin of the mandibulate body plan. Nature, 545: 89–92.
  • BRIGGS, D. E. G. 1975. Anomalocaris, the largest known Cambrian arthropod. Palaeontology, 22: 631–664.
  • BRIGGS, D. E. G. 1981. The arthropod Odaraia alata Walcott, middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences, 291: 541–582.
  • CARON, J.-B. and MOYSIUK, J. 2021. A giant nektobenthic radiodont from the Burgess Shale and the significance of hurdiid carapace diversity. Royal Society Open Science, 8: 210664.
  • FRYER, G. 1966. Branchinecta gigas Lynch, a non‐filter‐feeding raptatory anostracan, with notes on the feeding habits of certain other anostracans. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, 177: 19–34.
  • IZQUIERDO-LÓPEZ, A. and CARON, J. B. 2019. A possible case of inverted lifestyle in a new bivalved arthropod from the Burgess Shale. Royal Society Open Science, 6: 191350:
  • IZQUIERDO-LÓPEZ, A. and CARON, J. B. 2021. A Burgess Shale mandibulate arthropod with a pygidium: a case of convergent evolution. Papers in Palaeontology, 7: 1877–1894.
  • IZQUIERDO-LÓPEZ, A. and CARON, J. B. 2022. Extreme multisegmentation in a giant bivalved arthropod from the Cambrian Burgess Shale. IScience, 25, 104675.
  • LEGG, D. A., SUTTON, M. D., EDGECOMBE, G. D. and CARON, J. B. 2012. Cambrian bivalved arthropod reveals origin of arthrodization. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279: 4699–4704.
  • MOYSIUK, J. and CARON, J.-B. 2019. A new hurdiid radiodont from the Burgess Shale evinces the exploitation of Cambrian infaunal food sources. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286:201910.
  • NANGLU, K., CARON, J. and GAINES, R. 2020. The Burgess Shale paleocommunity with new insights from Marble Canyon, British Columbia. Paleobiology, 46(1): 58–81.
  • VANNIER, J., ARIA, C., TAYLOR, R. S. and CARON, J. B. 2018. Waptia fieldensis Walcott, a mandibulate arthropod from the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Royal Society Open Science, 5:172206.
  • VANNIER, J. CARON, J. B., YUAN, J., BRIGGS, D. E. G., COLLINS, D., ZHAO, Y. and ZHU, M. 2007. Tuzoia: morphology and lifestyle of a large bivalved arthropod of the Cambrian seas. Journal of Paleontology, 81(3): 445–471.
Other Links:

Oesia disjuncta

Oesia disjuncta (USNM 57630) – Lectotype, part and counterpart. Complete specimen. Specimen length = 85 mm. Specimen wet – direct light (top row), wet – polarized light (bottom row). Walcott Quarry.

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

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Marble Canyon
Phylum: Marble Canyon
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Enteropneusta
Species name: Oesia disjuncta
Remarks:

Oesia is considered a stem-group enteropneust (acorn worms) and has the characteristic three-part anatomy of the group, consisting of a proboscis, collar and trunk (Nanglu et al. 2016; Nanglu et al. 2020).

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911
Etymology:

Oesia — from Lake Oesa, a small lake located a few kilometres southeast of the Burgess Shale.

disjuncta — from the Latin prefix dis, to signify a negation, and junctus, “joined.” The name is probably in reference to the crooked or bent shape of the early discovered specimens of Oesia.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM57630 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

Age:
Middle Cambrian, Wuliuan stage, Burgess Shale Formation (around 507 million years old).
Principal localities:

Marble Canyon (Kootenay National Park), the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott (1911) described this species as a polychaete worm, but this view was challenged by Lohman (1920) who suggested a tunicate (chordate) affinity instead. Conway Morris (1979) rejected both interpretations, and this animal was later regarded as a problematic organism of unknown affinity (Briggs and Conway Morris, 1986). Szaniawski suggested a chaetognath affinity in 2005, which was argued against by Conway Morris in 2009. Nanglu et al. formally redescribed Oesia as an enteropneust (hemichordate) in 2016.

Description:

Morphology:

Oesia ranged in length from 2.4mm – 120mm, with an average length of 53mm. The anteriormost region is an oval or “acorn” shaped proboscis, which gives the acorn worms (Enteropneusta) their common name. The proboscis is frequently preserved with a darker, more dense carbon content than surrounding tissues, suggesting that it was highly muscular as the proboscis is in modern acorn worms. Behind the proboscis was a short cylindrical region called the collar, which enclosed the mouth. Behind the collar was a long, cylindrical region called the trunk, which maintain a roughly even width throughout. Unlike in modern acorn worms or its contemporary Spartobranchus, the trunk of Oesia was not divided into a pharynx and a posterior trunk. Instead, the collagenous gill bars that define the pharynx continue throughout the entire length. This gives Oesia a relatively inflexible appearance. At the posterior end of Oesia was a bilobed shaped attachment structure. The interior of this structure also preserved highly concentrated carbon relative to surrounding tissue which, along with its shape, suggests that this appendage was for grasping. Oesia is often found inside another fossil previously described as the alga Margaretia dorus, but which is now recognized as the secreted dwelling of Oesia, which was likely used for feeding as a pre-filtration device. This tube was typically twice the width of Oesia and could reach nearly 50 cm in total length. The tube contained a series of spirally arranged pores and could bifurcate into branches as many as 5 or 6 times (although 1 or 2 bifurcations is more common).

Abundance:

Oesia is relatively rare at the Walcott Quarry, but is abundant at Marble Canyon where it represents the third most abundant species with 3,373 specimens (Nanglu et al. 2020).

Maximum Size:
120 mm.

Ecology:

Life habits: Marble Canyon
Feeding strategies: Marble Canyon
Ecological Interpretations:

Oesia was likely a suspension feeder, owing to its extended pharynx laden will gill bars. These gill bars would have been covered in small hair-like structures called cilia which would move to create a flow of water towards the mouth and into the body. Excess water would then be expelled through pores, while food was passed through the gut. The large tubes of Oesia would have projected from the muddy seafloor into the water, with the pores allowing for water to move in and out of the tube. This would allow for fresh water for Oesia to feed on and refresh the tube with oxygenated water.

References:

 

  • BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND S. CONWAY MORRIS. 1986. Problematica from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia, p. 167-183. In A. Hoffman and M. H. Nitecki (eds.), Problematic fossil taxa (Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics No. 5). Oxford University Press & Clarendon Press, New York.
  • CONWAY MORRIS, S. 1979. The Burgess Shale (Middle Cambrian) fauna. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 10(1): 327-349.
  • CONWAY MORRIS, S. 2009. The Burgess Shale animal Oesia is not a chaetognath: A reply to Szaniawski (2005). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 54(1): 175-179.
  • LOHMANN, H. 1920. Oesia disjuncta Walcott, eine Appendicularie aus dem Kambrium. Mitteilungen aus dem Zoologischen Staatsinstitut und Zoologischen Museum in Hamburg, 38: 69-75.
  • NANGLU, K., CARON, J.-B., CONWAY MORRIS, S.C., AND C. B. CAMERON. 2016. Cambrian suspension-feeding tubicolous hemichordates. BMC Biology 14: 1-9.
  • NANGLU, K., J.-B. CARON, AND C. B. CAMERON. 2020a. Cambrian tentaculate worms and the origin of the hemichordate body plan. Current Biology 30 (21): 4238-4244
  • NANGLU, K., CARON, J.-B. and GAINES, R. R. 2020b. The Burgess Shale paleocommunity with new insights from Marble Canyon, British Columbia. Paleobiology, 46, 58-81.
  • SZANIAWSKI, H. 2005. Cambrian chaetognaths recognized in Burgess Shale fossils. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 50(1): 1-8.
  • WALCOTT, C. 1911. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology II. Middle Cambrian annelids. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57(5): 109-145.
Other Links:

None