The Burgess Shale

Yuknessia simplex

3D animation of Yuknessia simplex.
© Phlesch Bubble


Kingdom: Chlorophyta (Green algae)
Phylum: Chlorophyta (Green algae)
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Non applicable
Species name: Yuknessia simplex

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.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919

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:

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.



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.


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

Maximum Size:
30 mm


Life habits: Chlorophyta (Green algae)
Feeding strategies: Chlorophyta (Green algae)
Ecological Interpretations:

The wide stem suggests this species was attached to the sea floor within the photic zone rather than being free floating.


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.

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