The Burgess Shale

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

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.

Other Links:

None

Sidneyia inexpectans

3D animation of Sidneyia inexpectans.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group arthropods)
Remarks:

Sidneyia is usually considered to be closely related to the chelicerates, but its exact position relative to this group remains unclear (Budd and Telford, 2009). Sidneyia has been variously placed as the sister group to the chelicerates (Hou and Bergström, 1997), close to the crown on the chelicerate stem lineage (Bruton, 1981; Edgecombe and Ramsköld, 1999; Hendricks and Lieberman, 2008), or basal in the chelicerate stem lineage (Briggs and Fortey, 1989; Wills et al., 1998; Cotton and Braddy, 2004).

Species name: Sidneyia inexpectans
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1911
Etymology:

Sidneyia – after Walcott’s son Sidney, who discovered the first specimen in August of 1910.

inexpectans – from the Latin inexpectans, “unexpected,” since Walcott did not expect to find such a fossil in strata older than the Ordovician.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM57487 (S. inexpectans) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: A single specimen from the Chengjiang Fauna in China was used to describe a second species, Sidneyia sinica (Zhang et al. 2002), however this was later shown to be incorrectly attributed to Sidneyia (Briggs et al. 2008).

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, Mount Field and Mount Stephen – Tulip Beds (S7) and other smaller localities – Odaray Mountain and Stanley Glacier.

Other deposits: Sidneyia has been described from the Wheeler Formation (Briggs and Robison, 1984) and the Spence Shale (Briggs et al. 2008) in Utah, and the Kinzers Formation in Pennsylvania (Resser and Howell, 1938).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Sidneyia was the first fossil to be described by Walcott (1911) from the Burgess Shale. Further details were added by Walcott the following year (Walcott, 1912), and Strømer (1944) and Simonetta (1963) made minor revisions to Walcott’s reconstruction. A large appendage found in isolation was originally suggested to be the large frontal appendage of Sidneyia (Walcott, 1911), but this was later found to belong to the anomalocaridid Laggania (Whittington and Briggs, 1985). A major study by Bruton (1981) redescribed the species based on the hundreds of available specimens.

Description:

Morphology:

Sidneyia has a short, wide head shield that is convexly domed and roughly square. The two front lateral corners are notched to allow an antenna and a stalked eye to protrude. Other than the pair of antennae, which are long and thin with at least 20 segments, there are no cephalic appendages. The hemispherical and highly reflective eyes are above and posterior to the antennae.

The thorax of Sidneyia has nine wide, thin body segments that widen from the first to the fourth segment and then get progressively narrower posteriorly. The first four thoracic segments bear appendages with a large, spiny basal segment (the coxa) and 8 thinner segments, ending in a sharp claw. The next five thoracic appendages have a similar appendage but also have flap-like filaments in association with the limbs.

The abdomen consists of three circular rings that are much narrower than the thorax, with a terminal, triangular telson. The last segment of the abdomen has a pair of wide flaps that articulate with the telson to form a tail fan. A trace of the straight gut can be seen in some specimens extending from the anterior mouth to the anus on the telson, and pieces of broken trilobites are sometimes preserved in the gut.

Abundance:

Sidneyia is a relatively common arthropod in the Walcott Quarry, comprising 0.3% of the specimens counted (Caron and Jackson, 2008). Hundreds of specimens have been collected from the Walcott Quarry (Bruton, 1981) and in other nearby localities.

Maximum Size:
160 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Sidneyia walked and swam above the sea floor. Its anterior four thoracic appendages were used for walking, and the spiny basal coxa would crush food items and move them towards the mouth. The posterior five thoracic appendages were used for swimming, with the flap-like filaments undulating through the water column to create propulsion. These filaments were also likely used for breathing, like gills.

The predatory nature of Sidneyia is indicated by its spiny coxa used to masticate food, and the presence of crushed fossil debris in its gut. Sidneyia would have walked or swam above the sea floor, using its eyes and antennae to seek out prey, which it would capture and crush with its anterior appendages.

References:

BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND R. A. FORTEY. 1989. The early radiation and relationships of the major arthropod groups. Science, 246: 241-243.

BRIGGS, D. E. G. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1984. Exceptionally preserved non-trilobite arthropods and Anomalocaris from the Middle Cambrian of Utah. The University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, 111: 1-24.

BRIGGS, D. E. G., B. S. LIEBERMAN, J. R. HENDRICKS, S. L. HALGEDAHL AND R. D. JARRARD. 2008. Middle Cambrian arthropods from Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 82(2): 238-254.

BRUTON, D. L. 1981. The arthropod Sidneyia inexpectans, Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 295: 619-653.

BUDD, G. E. AND M. J. TELFORD. 2009. The origin and evolution of arthropods. Nature, 457(7231): 812-817.

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., R. GAINES, G. MANGANO, M. STRENG, AND A. DALEY. 2010. A new Burgess Shale-type assemblage from the “thin” Stephen Formation of the Southern Canadian Rockies. Geology, 38: 811-814.

COTTON, T. J. AND S. J. BRADDY. 2004. The phylogeny of arachnomorph arthropods and the origin of the Chelicerata. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences, 94: 169-193.

EDGECOMBE, G. D. AND L. RAMSKÖLD. 1999. Relationships of Cambrian Arachnata and the systematic position of Trilobita. Jounral of Paleontology, 73: 263-287.

HENDRICKS , J. R. AND B. S. LIEBERMAN. 2008. Phylogenetic insights into the Cambrian radiation of arachnomorph arthropods. Journal of Paleontology, 82: 585-594.

HOU, X. AND J. BERGSTRÖM. 1997. Arthropods of the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna, southwest China. Fossils and Strata, 45: 1-116.

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

SIMONETTA, A. M. 1963. Osservazioni sugli artropodi non trilobiti della Burgess Shale (Cambriano medio). II. Contributo: I Generai Sidneyia ed Amiella Walcott 1911. Monitore Zoologico Italiano, 70: 97-108.

STØMER, L. 1944. On the relationships and phylogeny of fossil and recent Arachnomorpha. Norsk Videnskaps-Akademi Skrifter I. Matematisk-Naturvidenskaplig Klasse, 5: 1-158.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1911. Middle Cambrian Merostomata. Cambrian geology and paleontology II. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 57: 17-40.

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

WHITTINGTON, H. B. AND D. E. G. BRIGGS. 1985. The largest Cambrian animal, Anomalocaris, Burgess Shale, British-Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 309: 569-609.

WILLS, M. A., D. E. G. BRIGGS, R. A. FORTEY, M. WILKINSON AND P. H. A. SNEATH. 1998. An arthropod phylogeny based on fossil and recent taxa, pp. 33-105. In G. D. Edgecombe (ed.), Arthropod fossils and phylogeny. Columbia University Press, New York.

ZHU, X., H. JIAN AND S. DEGAN. 2002. New occurrence of the Burgess Shale arthropod Sidneyia in the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte (South China), and revision of the arthropod Urokodia. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, 26: 1-18.

Other Links:

http://paleobiology.si.edu/burgess/sidneyia.html

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.

Other Links:

None

Scenella amii

3D animation of Scenella amii.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group molluscs)
Remarks:

Scenella is generally classified as a monoplacophoran mollusc (Knight, 1952; Runnegar and Jell, 1976). A position possibly ancestral to brachiopods (Dzik, 2010), or within the Cnidaria, has also been proposed (Babcock and Robison, 1988; Yochelson and Gil Cid, 1984).

Species name: Scenella amii
Described by: Matthew
Description date: 1902
Etymology:

Scenella – from the Greek word skene, “tent, or shelter,” in reference to its shape.

amii – after Marc Henri Ami from the Geological Survey of Canada.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM8048 in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none

Other deposits: Dozens of species are known from the Lower Cambrian to the Lower Ordovician.

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 and smaller localities on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

The limpet-like appearance of Scenella led to its original classification as a mollusc, initially as a pteropod, then as a gastropod (Walcott, 1886). The first fossils of this genus known from the Burgess Shale were collected from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen. These were described as Metoptoma amii by Matthew (1902), but Walcott (1908) considered other specimens from the same locality (and from the Walcott Quarry) to belong to Scenella varians, an earlier named species. Resser (1938) recognized that both species were identical and proposed a new combination, Scenella amii. In the same publication, Resser named a second species from the Trilobite Beds S. columbiana; this was based on a single specimen, originally recognized as a brachiopod with possible spines (Walcott, 1912), and remains highly dubious.

Description:

Morphology:

Each cone-shaped fossil has the form of a flat disc with a central peak, here termed “shell.” Concentric rings surround this peak, and sometimes the shell is also corrugated. The shells are stretched along one axis, making them elliptical rather than circular.

The fossils are often preserved in dense clusters and are usually oriented point-up.

No soft tissue is ever found associated with Scenella. The shell was evidently mineralized as indicated by the three-dimensional preservation and the presence of small cracks suggesting brittleness.

Abundance:

Hundreds of specimens of S. amii are known in the Walcott Quarry (2.27% of the community, Caron and Jackson, 2008). Many of these are found in dense clusters on single slabs.

Maximum Size:
10 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

If a mollusc, Scenella would have been a creeping bottom-dweller, potentially a grazer.

References:

BABCOCK, L. E. AND R. A. ROBISON. 1988. Taxonomy and paleobiology of some Middle Cambrian Scenella (Cnidaria) and hyolithids (Mollusca) from western North America. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Paper, 121: 1-22.

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

DZIK, J. 2010. Brachiopod identity of the alleged monoplacophoran ancestors of cephalopods. Malacologia, 52:97-113.

KNIGHT, J. B. 1952. Primitive fossil gastropods and their bearing on gastropod evolution. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 117(13): 1–56.

MATTHEW, G. F. 1902. Notes on Cambrian Faunas: Cambrian Brachiopoda and Mollusca of Mt. Stephen, B.C. with the description of a new species of Metoptoma. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 4:107-112.

RASETTI, F. 1954. Internal shell structures in the Middle Cambrian gastropod Scenella and the problematic genus Stenothecoides. Journal of Paleontology, 28: 59-66.

RESSER, C. E. 1938. Fourth contribution to nomenclature of Cambrian fossils. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 97:1-43.

Runnegar, B. AND P. A. JELL. 1976. Australian Middle Cambrian molluscs and their bearing on early molluscan evolution. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, 1(2): 109-138.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1886. Second contribution to the studies on the Cambrian faunas of North America. Bulletin of the United States Geological Survey, (30): 11-356.

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

WALCOTT, C. 1912. Cambrian Brachiopoda. United States Geological Survey Monograph, 51: Part 1: 1-872, Part 872: 871-363.

YOCHELSON, E. L. AND D. GIL CID. 1984. Reevaluation of the systematic position of Scenella. Lethaia, 17: 331-340.

Other Links:

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Protospongia hicksi

Protospongia hicksi? (ROM 43826). Typical isolated cruciform spicules. Size of widest ray = 15 mm. Specimen dry – direct light. Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Class: Hexactinellida (Order: Reticulosa)
Remarks:

Protospongia is related to a primitive group of Hexactinellid sponges and resembles Diagoniella (Rigby, 1986). Hexactinellid sponges (glass sponges) have a skeleton composed of four to six-pointed siliceous spicules, they are considered to be an early branch within the Porifera phylum due to their distinctive composition.

Species name: Protospongia hicksi
Described by: Hinde
Description date: 1888
Etymology:

Protospongia – from the Greek protos, “first,” and the Latin spongia, “sponge.”

hicksi – after H. Hicks, a palaeontologist who worked on fossil sponges.

Type Specimens: Unknown
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: Protospongia is widely known from the Cambrian to the Silurian in many siliciclastic and carbonate deposits.

Age & Localities:

Period:
Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone to late Middle Cambrian Bolaspidella Assemblage Zone (approximately 505 million years ago)
Principal localities:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge and several smaller localities on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: P. hicksi occurs in the Middle Cambrian Marjum Formation (Rigby, 1966).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

First described in 1888 by Hinde, this species was recognized from the Burgess Shale by Walcott in 1920. The genus was redescribed by Rigby in 1986 when reviewing the Burgess Shale sponges. In 2004, Rigby and Collins examined new material collected by the Royal Ontario Museum possibly attributable to this genus.

Description:

Morphology:

This sponge has been described only from fragments in the Burgess Shale so its shape and maximal size is unknown. However, specimens collected elsewhere show that this sponge had a globular to conical shape. The walls of this sponge were thin with a single layer of spicules. These spicules are known as stauracts, and differ from the normal six rayed spicules of the hexactinellid sponges in that they have two reduced rays which give them a distinctive cross-shape. Contrary to Diagoniella, the spicules are arranged parallel to the main axes of the sponge which gives it the distinctive square appearance. There are six orders of spicules present in the skeleton.

Abundance:

Protospongia is rare in the Walcott Quarry where it represents about 0.24% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
50 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Protospongia would have lived attached to the sea floor. Food particles were extracted from the water as it 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.

HINDE, G. J. 1888. A monograph of the British fossil sponges, Part 2, 93-188 p.

RIGBY, J. K. 1966. Protospongia hicksi Hinde from the Middle Cambrian of Western Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 40: 549-554.

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.

Other Links:

None

Priscansermarinus barnetti

Priscansermarinus barnetti (ROM 36064) – Holotype (specimen A). Slab with 62 individuals including the holotype (white frame to the left and close up to the right). Specimen length (holotype) = 32 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light (both images). Walcott Quarry talus.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Class: Non applicable
Remarks:

Originally proposed as a crustacean arthropod and a possible member of the pedunculate lepadomorph barnacles within Maxillopoda (Subclass Thecostraca) (Collins and Rudkin, 1981), its affinities have since been questioned and remain equivocal.

Species name: Priscansermarinus barnetti
Described by: Collins and Rudkin
Description date: 1981
Etymology:

Priscansermarinus – from the Latin priscus “of ancient times;” anser, “goose” and marinus, “sea,” (together forming “sea goose”) in reference to the modern goose barnacles.

barnetti – after Robert Barnett, member of the 1975 ROMexpedition, who found the first specimens.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM36064a in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, 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 Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge, Mount Field.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

The “discovery” slab bearing 62 individuals of a previously unknown organism was found by Robert Barnett in talus (scree) beneath the Walcott Quarry level during the ROM’s inaugural Burgess Shale expedition in 1975. Priscansermarinus barnetti was described and named in 1981, and interpreted as a probable stalked (pedunculate) lepadomorph (goose) barnacle, pending recovery of additional specimens preserving definitive characters. The barnacle, and even the arthropod, affinities of Priscansermarinus have since been questioned (Briggs, 1983; Briggs et al., 2005).

Description:

Morphology:

Priscansermarinus consists of two primary components – an ovate triangular shaped, laterally compressed “body,” and a short, thick “stalk.” The body region shows a highly reflective centralized subtriangular region that was originally interpreted as evidence for a thin non-biomineralized external “plate” on either side of the body. This is now recognized to be an internal structure of greater anatomical complexity. The stalk, or stolon, which appears to emerge from the body rather than blend into it, is cylindrical in shape and at least moderately flexible; the distal end bears a terminal disc exhibiting a radiating pattern. In most known specimens, the stalk comprises slightly more than half of the total length of the animal.

Abundance:

Moderately common at some Raymond Quarry levels; uncommon elsewhere.

Maximum Size:
50 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

This species is too poorly known to describe its ecology with great certainty. The terminal disk at the base of its stolon was probably used for anchoring the animal in or on the mud. Without any apparent tentacles and obvious feeding structures, a suspension feeding mode of life is a strong possibility.

References:

BRIGGS, D. E. G. 1983. Affinities and early evolution of the Crustacea: the evidence of the Cambrian fossils, p. 1-22. In F. R. Schram (ed.), Crustacean Phylogeny. Balkema, Rotterdam.

BRIGGS, D. E. G., M. D. SUTTON AND D. J. SIVETER. 2005. Metamorphosis in a Silurian barnacle. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 272: 2365-2369.

COLLINS, D. AND RUDKIN, D. M. 1981. Priscansermarinus barnetti, a probable lepadomorph barnacle from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia. Journal of Paleontology, 55: 1006-1015.

Other Links:

None

Leptomitus lineatus

Leptomitus undulatus (ROM 53571) – Holotype (part and counterpart). Only known specimen of this species showing partial base, prominent ridges and top part (osculum). Specimen height = 78 mm. Specimen wet – direct light. Walcott Quarry.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Class: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Remarks:

Leptomitus 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: Leptomitus lineatus
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Leptomitus – from the Greek lept, “slender,” and mitos, “thread.” This name refers to the overall shape of the sponge.

lineatus – from the Latin lineatus, “streaked.” This refers to the wrinkle appearance of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM66448 (L. lineatus) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA. Holotype –ROM53558 (L. undulatus) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: L. undulatus Rigby and Collins 2004 from the Walcott Quarry.

Other deposits: L. zitteli Walcott, 1886 from the Middle Cambrian Parker Slate in Vermont; L. metta Rigby, 1983 from the Middle Cambrian Marjum Formation of Utah; L. conicus García-Bellido et al., 2007 from the Middle Cambrian Murero Formation of Spain; L. teretiusculus Chen, Hou and Lu, 1989 from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang biota in China (see Rigby and Hou, 1995); unidentified species from the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Formation in China (Yang et al., 2003).

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge. The Tulip Beds (S7) and the Collins Quarry on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Leptomitus was originally described by Charles Walcott (1920) as a new genus “Tuponia” along with several species (T. lineatea, T. flexilis, T. flexilis var. intermedia). This genus was later synonymized by Resser and Howell (1938) with Leptomitus, a genus named by Walcott in 1886. Ribgy (1986) redescribed the Burgess Shale sponges including Leptomitus and considered L. flexilis to be a junior synonym of L. lineatus. Rigby and Collins (2004) added a second species L. undulatus based on new material collected by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Description:

Morphology:

L. lineatus is an elongate tubular sponge with a double-layered skeleton. The outer layer is composed of long monoaxial spicules (simple spicules with pointed ends) arranged vertically along the length of the sponge. The varying thicknesses of these elongate spicules give the sponge a distinctive wrinkly appearance in the fossils. The inner layer is composed of tiny horizontal spicules that form an unclumped thatch; these tufts can be seen at the oscular margin (opening at the top of the sponge). The base of the sponge is rounded in shape and would have had a small holdfast structure. L. undulatus has the same wall structure as L. lineatus but has a rounder goblet shaped skeleton.

Abundance:

L. lineatus is relatively common in the Walcott Quarry and represents 0.26% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008). L. undulatus is known from a single specimen.

Maximum Size:
360 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Leptomitus 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.

CHEN, J. Y., X. G. HOU AND H. Z. LU. 1989. Lower Cambrian leptomitids (Demospongea), Chengjiang, Yunnan. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 28: 17-31.

GARCÍA-BELLIDO, D. C., R. GOZALO, J. B. CHIRIVELLA MARTORELL AND E. LIÑÁN. 2007. The demosponge genus Leptomitus and a new species from the Middle Cambrian of Spain. . Palaeontology, 50: 467-478.

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

RIGBY, J. K. 1983. Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Marjum Limestone from the House Range and Drum Mountains of Western Millard County, Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 57: 240-270.

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.

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.

WALCOTT, C. 1886. Second contribution to the studies on the Cambrian faunas of North America. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin, 30: 1-369.

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

Other Links:

None

Kootenia burgessensis

Kootenia burgessensis (ROM 60761). Disarticulated specimen. Specimen dry – direct light (left) and coated with ammonium chloride sublimate to show details (right). Specimen length = 44 mm. Walcott Quarry.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

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: Kootenia burgessensis
Described by: Resser
Description date: 1942
Etymology:

Kootenia – unspecified, but almost certainly for the Kootenay region of southeast British Columbia, or the derivative Kootenay River, both based upon the Ktunaxa or Kutenai First Nation of the same area.

burgessensis – from the Burgess Shale.

Type Specimens: Holotype (K. burgessensis) – USNM65511 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (Resser, 1942); Type status under review – (K. dawsoni), University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: Kootenia dawsoni; Olenoides serratus. (Species of Kootenia are no longer considered different enough from those in Olenoides to warrant placement in a separate genus, but Kootenia is retained here for ease of reference to historical literature).

Other deposits: other species attributed to Kootenia are widespread in the Cambrian of North America, and have been recorded in Greenland, China, Australia, and elsewhere.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge, and nearby localities on Mount Field; K. dawsoni is known from the Trilobite Beds and elsewhere on Mount Stephen.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Kootenia burgessensis was established by Charles Resser based on material Walcott included in K. dawsoni. Kootenia originally appeared as a subgenus of Bathyuriscus in Walcott’s 1889 paper revising many of Rominger’s Mount Stephen trilobite identifications. Walcott named B. (Kootenia) dawsoni after G. M. Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada as a replacement for what Rominger had illustrated as Bathyurus (?) in 1887.

In 1908, Walcott followed G. F. Matthew (1899) in calling this Dorypyge (Kootenia) dawsoni, but regarded Kootenia as a full genus in 1918. Harry Whittington included Kootenia burgessensis in his 1975 redescription of Burgess Shale appendage-bearing trilobites, illustrating a single specimen showing biramous thoracic limbs on one side. In 1994, Melzak and Westrop concluded that Kootenia could not be consistently discriminated from Olenoides using traditional characters of the spinose pygidium.

Description:

Morphology:

Hard parts: adult dorsal exoskeletons may reach 5.5 cm in length and are broadly oval in outline. In most general features, Kootenia burgessensis resembles the co-occurring Olenoides serratus, with a semi-circular cephalon bearing genal spines, a thorax of seven segments, and a semi-circular pygidium. In Kootenia, however, spines on the thoracic pleural tips and shorter and blunter, as are those around the margin of the pygidium; interpleural furrows on the pygidium are absent to very faint.

Unmineralized anatomy: based on evidence from just a few specimens, Kootenia burgessensis, like Olenoides serratus, had a pair of flexible, multi-jointed “antennae” followed by three pairs of biramous limbs on the cephalon. Pairs of similar biramous appendages were attached under each thoracic segment, with a smaller number under the pygidium. No specimens, however, show any evidence of posterior antenna-like cerci as in Olenoides.

Abundance:

Kootenia burgessensis is moderately common in the Walcott Quarry section on Fossil Ridge, as is Kootenia dawsoni in the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds.

Maximum Size:
55 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

Adult Kootenia burgessensis walked along the sea bed, possibly digging shallow furrows to locate small soft-bodied and weakly-shelled animals or carcasses. Kootenia could probably swim just above the sea bed for short distances. Tiny larvae and early juveniles probably swam and drifted in the water column.

References:

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, Vol. 5, Section IV:39-66.

MELZAK, A. AND S. R. WESTROP. 1994. Mid-Cambrian (Marjuman) trilobites from the Pika Formation, southern Canadian Rocky Mountains, Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 31:969-985.

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.

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.

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. 1889. Description of new genera and species of fossils from the Middle Cambrian. United States National Museum, Proceedings for 1888:441-446.

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

WALCOTT, C. 1918. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology IV. Appendages of trilobites. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(4): 115-216.

WHITTINGTON, H. B. 1975. Trilobites with appendages from the Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Fossils and Strata, No. 4: 97-136.

Other Links:

Isoxys acutangulus

3D animation of Isoxys carinatus.

Animation by Phlesch Bubble © Royal Ontario Museum

Taxonomy:

Class: Unranked clade (stem group arthropods)
Remarks:

The affinity of Isoxys is uncertain because for a long time it was known only from empty carapaces. Recent descriptions of soft parts show that the frontal appendage is similar to that of some megacheiran, or “great appendage,” taxa such as Leanchoilia, Alalcomenaeus, and Yohoia (Vannier et al., 2009; García-Bellido et al., 2009a). The affinity of Megacheira as a whole is uncertain, but it has been suggested that they either sit within the stem-lineage to the euarthropods (Budd, 2002) or they are stem-lineage chelicerates (Chen et al., 2004; Edgecombe, 2010).

Species name: Isoxys acutangulus
Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1908
Etymology:

Isoxys – from the Greek isos, “equal,” and xystos, “smooth surface”; thus referring to the pair of smooth valves.

acutangulus – from the Latin acutus, “sharp, pointed,” and angulus, “angle”; thus referring to the acute angle of the cardinal spines.

Type Specimens: Type status under review –USNM56521 (I. acutangulus) and Holotype –USNM189170 (I. longissimus) in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: I. longissimus from Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge.

Other deposits: I. chilhoweanus from the Chilhowee Group, Tennessee, USA; I. auritus, I. paradoxus and I. curvirostratus from the Maotianshan Shale of China; I. bispinatus from the Shuijingtuo Formation, Hubei, China; I. wudingensis from the Guanshan fauna of China; I. communis and I. glaessneri from the Emu Bay Shale of Australia; I. volucris from the Buen Formation, Sirius Passet in Greenland; I. carbonelli from the Sierro Morena of Spain, and I. zhurensis from the Profallotaspis jakutensis Zone of Western Siberia. Undescribed species from Canada; Mount Cap Formation in the Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories and the Eager Formation near Cranbrook. Other undescribed species in the Kaili Formation, Guizhou Province, China and the Kinzers Formation, Pennsylvania, USA. See references in Briggs et al., 2008; García-Bellido et al., 2009a,b; Stein et al., 2010; Vannier and Chen, 2000.

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott, Raymond and Collins Quarries on Fossil Ridge. Additional localities are known on Mount Field, Mount Stephen – Tulip Beds (S7) and the Trilobite Beds, and near Stanley Glacier.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott gave the name Isoxys to specimens from the lower Cambrian Chilhowee Group of Tennessee, USA, in 1890. He then later designated the first species from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen, Anomalocaris? acutangulus (Walcott, 1908), although he placed it erroneously in the genus Anomalocaris. Simonetta and Delle Cave (1975) renamed it Isoxys acutangulus and discovered a second Burgess Shale species, I. longissimus. The original designations were based on carapaces only, making research on the ecology and affinity of Isoxys difficult. Soft parts have recently been described from the Burgess Shale taxa (Vannier et al. 2009, García-Bellido et al. 2009a).

Description:

Morphology:

The most prominent feature of Isoxys is the non-mineralized carapace, which ranged in length from 1 cm to almost 4 cm, and covered most of the body. It was folded to give two equal hemispherical valves, and had pronounced spines at the front and back. A pair of bulbous, spherical eyes protrudes forward and laterally from under the carapace. They are attached to the head by very short stalks. A pair of frontal appendages that are segmented and non-branching (uniramous) is adjacent to the eyes. The flexible appendages are curved with a serrated outline and five segments in total, including a basal part, three segments with stout outgrowths, and a pointed terminal segment.

The trunk of the body has 13 pairs of evenly spaced appendages that are segmented and branch into two (biramous), with slender, unsegmented walking limbs and large, paddle-like flaps fringed with long setae. The telson has a pair of lateral flaps. A cylindrical gut passes from the head to the ventral terminus of the telson, and is lined by paired, lobate gut glands. I. longissimus is distinguished from I. acutangulus by the presence of extremely long spines and an elongated body shape.

Abundance:

Isoxys is known from hundreds of specimens collected on Fossil Ridge. In the Walcott Quarry, Isoxys acutangulus is relatively common and represents about 0.35% of the community whereas Isoxys longissimus is extremely rare (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
40 mm

Ecology:

Ecological Interpretations:

The streamlined body, thin carapace, and the presence of large paddle-shaped flaps in the appendages all suggest that Isoxys was a free-swimming animal. The spines and wide telson would have been use for steering and stability in the water column. A predatory lifestyle is indicated by the large eyes, frontal appendage, and gut glands. Isoxys would have swum just above the sea floor, seeking out prey in the water column and at the sediment-water interface.

References:

BRIGGS, D. E. G., B. S. LIEBERMAN, J. R. HENDRICK, S. L. HALGEDAHL AND R. D. JARRARD. 2008. Middle Cambrian arthropods from Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 82: 238-254.

BUDD, G. E. 2002. A palaeontological solution to the arthropod head problem. Nature, 417: 271-275.

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

CHEN, J. Y., D. WALOSZEK AND A. MAAS. 2004. A new ‘great-appendage’ arthropod from the Lower Cambrian of China and homology of chelicerate chelicerae and raptorial antero-ventral appendages. Lethaia, 37: 3-20.

EDGECOMBE, G. D. 2010. Arthropod phylogeny: An overview from the perspectives of morphology, molecular data and the fossil record. Arthropod Structure & Development, 39: 74-87.

GARCÍA-BELLIDO, D. C., J. VANNIER AND D. COLLINS. 2009a. Soft-part preservation in two species of the arthropod Isoxys from the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia, Canada. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 54: 699-712.

GARCÍA-BELLIDO, D. C., J. R. PATERSON, G. D. EDGECOMBE, J. B. JAGO, J. G. GEHLING AND M. S. Y. LEE. 2009b. The bivavled arthropods Isoxys and Tuzoia with soft-part preservation from the lower Cambrian Emu Bay Shale Lagerstätte (Kangaroo Island, Australia). Palaeontology, 52: 1221-1241.

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.

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