The Burgess Shale

Halichondrites elissa

Halichondrites elissa (ROM 53575) – Part and counterpart. Nearly complete individual showing the pointed root tuft. Specimen height = 140 mm. Specimen dry – direct light (left), wet – direct light (right). Walcott Quarry.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Halichondrites elissa
Remarks:

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

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Halichondrities – from the Greek hal, meaning “belonging to the sea,” chon, meaning “funnel” or “tube,” and dri, meaning “thicket.” The name refers to the shape of this marine sponge with a thicket of long hair-like spicules.

elissa – from the Greek eliss, meaning “to roll, or to turn about.” This name may refer to the spiral pattern of the small spicules of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM66447 in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: An unidentified species, Halichondrites sp. from Mount Stephen (Rigby and Collins, 2004).

Other deposits: H. confusus Dawson, 1889 from the Ordovician of Quebec at Little Métis.

Age & Localities:

Age:
Lower Cambrian, Wutingaspis-Eoredlichia Zone to Middle Cambrian, Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 510 to 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge.

Other deposits: H. elissa from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang fauna (Chen et al., 1997; Luo et al., 1999).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Walcott assigned this species to the genus Halichondrites in 1920. Ribgy (1986) re-described this genus and hypothesized that Halichondrites probably evolved from an early species of Leptomitus and established a new family called Halichondritidae to include this genus. New specimens collected by the Royal Ontario Museum were subsequently described by Rigby and Collins in 2004.

Description:

Morphology:

This sponge has a cone shaped base that extends upwards to form a long tube. The walls of the sponge are smooth with a thatch of small spicules that are vertically arranged in a clockwise spiraling pattern. There are no canals visible in the wall; they may be very small or run parallel to the wall. The most distinctive part of this sponge is the long thick, densely arranged spicules that emerge from the wall. These spicules are orientated upwards and may be up to 8.5 cm long. This sponge can be over 20 cm tall and is one of the tallest and most hirsute (densely covered in hair) of the Burgess Shale sponges. Water would have entered though small pores in the wall, moving into the central cavity and out the circular osculum at the top of the sponge.

Abundance:

Halichondrites is very rare and represents only 0.01% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
215 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Halichondrites 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., Y. N. CHENG AND H. V. ITEN. 1997. The Cambrian explosion and the fossil record. National Museum of Natural Science Taiwan, Taichung, 319 p.

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.

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

Pirania muricata

3D animation of Pirania muricata and other sponges (Choia ridleyi, Diagoniella cyathiformis, Eiffelia globosa, Hazelia conferta, Vauxia bellula, and Wapkia elongata) and Chancelloria eros a sponge-like form covered of star-shaped spines.

ANIMATION BY PHLESCH BUBBLE © ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Pirania muricata
Remarks:

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

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Pirania – from Mount Saint Piran (2,649 m), situated in the Bow River Valley in Banff National Park, Alberta. Samuel Allen named Mount St. Piran after the Patron Saint of Cornwall in 1894.

muricata – from the Latin muricatus, “pointed, or full of sharp points.” The name refers to the large pointed spicules extending out from the wall of the sponge.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM66495 (erroneously referred as 66496 in Rigby, 1986), in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none

Other deposits: Pirania auraeum Botting, 2007 from the Lower Ordovician of Morocco (Botting, 2007); Pirania llanfawrensis Botting, 2004 from the Upper Ordovician of England (Botting, 2004).

Age & Localities:

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

The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge. The Trilobite Beds and Tulip Beds (S7) on Mount Stephen and several smaller sites on Mount Field, Mount Stephen and Mount Odaray.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Pirania was first described by Walcott (1920). Rigby (1986) redescribed this sponge and concluded that the skeleton is composed of hexagonally arranged canals, large pointed spicules and tufts of small spicules. This sponge was also reviewed by Rigby and Collins based on new material collected by the Royal Ontario Museum (2004).

Description:

Morphology:

Pirania is a thick-walled cylindrical sponge that can have up to four branches. The skeleton of the sponge is composed of tufts of small spicules and has very distinctive long pointed spicules that emerge from the external wall. Long canals perforate the wall of the sponge to allow water flow through it. Branching occurs close to the base of the sponge.

Abundance:

Pirania is common in most Burgess Shale sites but comprises only 0.38% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
30 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Pirania 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. The brachiopods Nisusia and Micromitra a range of other sponges and even juvenile chancelloriids are often found attached to the long spicules of this sponge, possibly to avoid higher turbidity levels near the seafloor.

References:

BOTTING, J. P. 2004. An exceptional Caradoc sponge fauna from the Llanfawr Quarries, Central Wales and phylogenetic implications. Journal of Systematic Paleontology, 2: 31-63.

BOTTING, J. P. 2007. ‘Cambrian’ demosponges in the Ordovician of Morocco: insights into the early evolutionary history of sponges. Geobios, 40: 737-748.

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. 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

Petaloptyon danei

Petaloptyon danei (MCZ 101624) – Holotype. Lower part of a moderately complete specimen showing several panels with gaps. Specimen height = 42 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© MUSEUM OF COMPARATIVE ZOOLOGY AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY. PHOTO: DESMOND COLLINS

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Calcarea (Order: Heteractinida)
Species name: Petaloptyon danei
Remarks:

Petaloptyon is considered a calcareous sponge belonging to the Family Eiffeiliidae (Rigby and Collins, 2004). Calcarea sponges are the only sponges with calcium carbonate (calcite or aragonite) spicules. They are thought to be an early branch within the phylum Porifera and are mainly found in the tropics today.

Described by: Raymond
Description date: 1931
Etymology:

Petaloptyon – from the Greek, petalon, meaning “leaf,” and ptyon, meaning “fan.” This name refers to the broad open petal-like shape of this sponge.

danei – from the Greek dan, “torch.” This name may refer to the torch-like shape of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotype – MCZ 101624, in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University Cambridge, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

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

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Raymond (1931) named Petaloptyon danei based on a couple of specimens collected during his visits to the Trilobite Beds with Harvard students. At the time, Raymond classified this new animal as an octocoral (soft coral). In 1986, Rigby described a new sponge Canistrumella alternata, but it was later discovered that this was essentially the same form that Raymond had described in 1931 (Rigby and Collins, 2004) and Canistrumella was made a junior synonym of Petaloptyon.

Description:

Morphology:

Petaloptyon has a very distinct and unusual globlet-like shape. It has an open conical to basket-like skeleton that is composed of alternating triangular shaped panels (up to 12) that may or may not have circular to elliptical gaps within them. The walls of this sponge are very thin and composed of spicules with five rays. At the top, the oscular margin has a scalloped appearance. At the base of the sponge there is a stalk and an attachment structure.

Abundance:

Petaloptyon is a very rare sponge with only a handful of specimens known.

Maximum Size:
75 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Petalopyton 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:

RAYMOND, P. E. 1931. Notes on invertebrate fossils, with descriptions of new species. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 55(6):165-213.

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.

Other Links:

None

Fieldospongia bellilineata

Fieldospongia bellilineata (ROM 53602). Complete specimen showing root tuft to upper margin. Specimen height = 55 mm. Specimen wet – polarized light. The Monarch Cirque.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Fieldospongia bellilineata
Remarks:

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

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Fieldospongia – from Field, the mountain peak (2,643 m) and small town near Fossil Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. The name was given by William Cornelius Van Horne (General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway), to honor Cyrus West Field a promoter of the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean; and from the Latin spongia, “sponge.”

bellilineata – from the Latin bell, “charming,” and linea, “pertaining to lines.” The name makes reference to the linear-like skeleton of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotype –USNM66454, 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, probably from the Glossopleura Zone or the Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

The northwest shoulder of Mount Stephen and the Monarch Peak in Kootenay National Park.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Described in 1920 as Tuponia bellilineata by Walcott in his monograph on sponges from the Burgess Shale, this form has now been placed within a separate genus, Fieldospongia, erected by Rigby in 1986. The only known specimen purportedly came from the Mount Whyte Formation (Walcott, 1920), just below the Northwestern shoulder of Mount Stephen. This formation is older than any of the rock units containing Burgess Shale-type fossils in the vicinity and is not characterized by exceptional preservation. Examination of the specimen suggests that this sponge probably comes from younger rock units with Burgess Shale-type fossils (Glossopleura to Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zones) that are known in this area. It is likely that this specimen was derived from upper sections and was collected at the base of talus slopes coinciding with levels of the Mount Whyte Formation. A second specimen was described by Rigby and Collins in 2004 from The Monarch, a mountain Peak at the border between Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Kootenay National Park.

Description:

Morphology:

This species has a conical shape with gentle horizontal wrinkles. The thin walls are composed of similarly spaced bundles of spicules arranged vertically and horizontally, forming a regular skeletal net with rectangular cells. Vertical strands are usually more prominent than the horizontal ladders. The root tuft is relatively long and narrow.

Abundance:

Fieldospongia is very rare, known from only two specimens.

Maximum Size:
55 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Fieldospongia 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.

Other Links:

None

Falospongia falata

Falospongia falata (ROM 40317) – Holotype (bottom left). Specimen with basal section missing showing the major tracts of spicules. Specimen height = 35 mm. Specimen dry – polarized light. Walcott Quarry talus.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Falospongia falata
Remarks:

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

Described by: Rigby
Description date: 1986
Etymology:

Falospongia – from the Latin fala, “scaffold,” and spongia, “sponge.” The name refers to the open framework of the skeleton.

falata – from the Latin fala, “scaffold,” and tus, “pertaining to.” The name makes reference to the grid-like skeleton of this sponge.

Type Specimens: Holotypes –ROM40317 (F. falata),ROM44271 (F. ramosa) in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: F. ramosa Rigby and Collins, 2004 from the Collins Quarry on Fossil Ridge and the Northwest shoulder of Mount Stephen and an indeterminate species F. sp. from the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge (Rigby and Collins, 2004).

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

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

F. falata is only known from the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Rigby (1986) described the type species of this new genus based on one specimen from talus material collected below the Walcott Quarry. This genus is considered closely related to Hazelia and Crumillospongia and the three genera are placed in the Family Hazeliidae.

Description:

Morphology:

F. falata is a small funnel shaped sponge. The skeleton is composed of simple vertical and horizontal spicules that thatch together to form strong vertical and irregular horizontal tracts. These tracts are parallel to canals that extend upward and outward. The canals would have allowed water through the skeleton and into the central cavity. F. falata has branches that are more open and funnel shaped than the club-shaped branches of F. ramosa.

Abundance:

Falospongia is very rare in the Walcott Quarry and represents only 0.01% of the community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
65 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Falospongia 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. 1986. Sponges of the Burgess shale (Middle Cambrian), British Columbia. Palaeontographica Canadiana, 2: 105p.

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): 155p.

Other Links:

None

Eiffelospongia hirsuta

Eiffelospongia hirsuta (ROM 43828) – Holotype. Specimen with well preserved bearded root tuft. Specimen height = 8 mm. Specimen dry – direct light (left), wet – polarized light (right). Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

© Royal Ontario Museum. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Calcarea (Order: Heteractinida)
Species name: Eiffelospongia hirsuta
Remarks:

This species resembles Diagoniella but belongs to sponges with calcium carbonate (calcite or aragonite) spicules (Rigby and Collins, 2004).

Described by: Rigby and Collins
Description date: 2004
Etymology:

Eiffelospongia – from the nearby Eiffel Peak, named on account of its resemblance to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and spongia, the Latin word meaning “sponge.”

hirsuta – from the Latin hirtus, “hairy,” referring to the hairy or beard-like appearance of the basal tuft and dermal layer of this species.

Type Specimens: Holotype –ROM43828 (wrongly referencedROM48828 in Rigby and Collins, 2004), in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: none.

Age & Localities:

Age:
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:

This genus was named by Rigby and Collins in 2004 based on new material collected from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Description:

Morphology:

Eiffelospongia is a small (less than 1 cm) oval or keg-shaped sponge with a large central cavity and a small osculum (opening at the top) with a flat margin. The skeleton of Eiffelospongia is composed of two orders of spicules: long thin-rayed spicules with six-pointed ends (hexaradiate), that thatch together to give shape to the sponge, and a second type of spicules which are much smaller and occur in the spaces between the long spicules. The basal part of the sponge is defined by long coarse spicules, arranged lengthways, that form a triangular tuft shape.

Abundance:

The species is known from only a few specimens from the Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

Maximum Size:
10 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Eiffelospongia would have lived with its bearded root tuft 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

Eiffelia globosa

3D animation of the sponges Eiffelia globosa, Choia ridleyi, Diagoniella cyathiformis, Hazelia conferta, Pirania muricata, Vauxia bellula, and Wapkia elongata and the sponge-like Chancelloria eros a sponge-like form covered of star-shaped spines.

Animation by Phlesch Bubble © Royal Ontario Museum

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Calcarea (Order: Heteractinida)
Species name: Eiffelia globosa
Remarks:

Eiffelia is thought to fall near the divergence of the calcareous and hexactinellid sponges (Botting and Butterfield, 2005).

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Eiffelia – from the nearby Eiffel Peak, named on account of its resemblance to Paris’ Eiffel Tower. The tower bears the name of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923), a French engineer famous for building many large steel structures.

globosa – from the Latin globus, “globe or ball,” reflecting the organism’s shape.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM66522, in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: none.

Other deposits: E. araniformis Missarzhevsky and Mambetov, 1981 from several Early Cambrian small shelly fossil deposits (Bengtson et al., 1990; Skovsted, 2006).

Age & Localities:

Age:
Lower Cambrian to Middle Cambrian Bathyuriscus-Elrathina Zone (approximately 505 million years ago).
Principal localities:

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

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Originally described by Walcott in 1920, little research concentrated on Eiffelia until it was re-described by Rigby in 1986 as part of his review of Burgess Shale sponges. Additional specimens collected by the Royal Ontario Museum were described subsequently by Rigby and Collins (2004). Bearing characteristics of both the calcareous and hexactinellid sponges, Eiffelia has been important in determining higher-level evolutionary relationships within the sponges. Eiffelia spicules form by the accretion of phosphate on a siliceous core, which provides a possible evolutionary transition between the minerals used in the construction of spicules (Botting and Butterfield, 2005)

Description:

Morphology:

Eiffelia is usually preserved as a flattened net of spicules within a single layer, forming a mesh with an approximately circular outline 1 to 6 cm in diameter. Spicules occur in at least five distinct size ranges. The largest ones usually take the form of six-pointed stars (hexaradiate), whereas the smallest ones usually have only four-pointed ends. The rays generally run parallel to one another, producing a somewhat geometric lattice-like appearance. The largest spicules, spaced a few millimetres apart from one another, enclose spicules of the second size class between their slender tapering rays. The smaller spicules, which are so small as to rarely be preserved, fill the remaining gaps in the mesh. The spicules themselves are joined by a small central disc formed from flared-out sections of their bases at the point where the six spines meet. Eiffelia’s spicules supported a thin wall that would have formed an orb-shaped sac perforated with occasional small elliptical openings (ostia).

Abundance:

Relatively rare in the Walcott Quarry where it represents only 0.1% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
60 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

The sponge sat on the sea floor possibly sticking on hard surfaces. Particles of organic matter were extracted from the water as they passed through canals in the sponge’s wall.

References:

BENGTSON, S. S. CONWAY MORRIS, B. J. COOPER, P. A. JELL AND B. N. RUNNEGAR. 1990. Early Cambrian fossils from South Australia, 9, 364 p.

BOTTING, J. P. AND N. J. BUTTERFIELD. 2005. Reconstructing early sponge relationships by using the Burgess Shale fossil Eiffelia globosa, Walcott. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(5): 1554.

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

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: 1-155.

SKOVSTED, C. B. 2006. Small shelly fauna from the Upper Lower Cambrian Bastion and Ella Island Formations, North-East Greenland. Journal of Paleontology, 80:1087-1112.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1920. Middle Cambrian Spongiae. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(6): 261-364.

Other Links:

None

Diagoniella hindei

3D animation of Diagoniella cyathiformis and other sponges (Choia ridleyi, Eiffelia globosa, Hazelia conferta, Pirania muricata, Vauxia bellula, and Wapkia elongata) and Chancelloria eros a sponge-like form covered of star-shaped spines.

Animation by Phlesch Bubble © Royal Ontario Museum

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Hexactinellida (Order: Reticulosa)
Species name: Diagoniella hindei
Remarks:

Diagoniella is placed in the Family Protospongiidae (primitive hexactinellids) and may be confused with Protospongia (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.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Diagoniella – from the Greek dia, “throughout, during or across”, and gon, “corner, joint or angle” refering to the diagonal spicules of this sponge.

hindei – for Dr. G. J. Hinde, a British palaeontologist who worked on fossil sponges.

Type Specimens: Lectotype –USNM66503 (D. hindei), in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA. (D. cyathiformis type and repository information unknown.)
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: D. cyathiformis (Dawson, 1889) from the Trilobite Beds and Tulip Beds on Mount Stephen, Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge and Stanley Glacier (Caron et al., 2010).

Other deposits: D. coronata Dawson, 1890 from the Ordovician of Québec at Little Métis.

Age & Localities:

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

Burgess Shale and vicinity: This sponge has been found at the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge, the Trilobite Beds and Tulip Beds (S7) localities on Mount Stephen and from Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park.

Other deposits: D. cyathiformis (Dawson, 1889) from the Ordovician of Québec at Little Métis to the Middle Cambrian Wheeler and Marjum Formations in Utah (for D. cyathiformis) D. hindei Walcott, 1920 from the Cambrian of Utah and Nevada as well (Rigby, 1978, 1983).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Diagoniella was described by Rauff in 1894 as a subgenus of Protospongia. Walcott described a new species, D. hindei, in his 1920 monograph of the sponges from the Burgess Shale and made Diagoniella a valid genus, considering it distinct from Protospongia. Ribgy (1986) restudied the sponges of the Burgess Shale including D. hindei and Rigby and Collins (2004) concluded that another species, known in other Cambrian deposits, D. cyathiformis, is also present in the Burgess Shale.

Description:

Morphology:

D. hindei is a small and simple conical sac-like sponge. The skeleton is composed of diagonally orientated coarse spicules along the length of the sponge. These spicules are known as stauracts, and differ from the normal six rayed spicules of the hexactinellid sponges in that they have two rays reduced which gives them a distinctive cross-shape. The spicules knit together to form a net, although, unlike some hexactinellid sponges this net is not fused, which make the sponges very delicate. D. cyathiformis is a larger (up to 120 mm) and more elongate, conical species. The long spicules form a tuft-like root structure at the base of the sponge.

Abundance:

Diagoniella is relatively common but represents only 0.24% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
18 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Diagoniella 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.

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.

RIGBY, J. K. 1978. Porifera of the Middle Cambrian Wheeler Shale, from the Wheeler Amphitheater, House Range, in Western Utah. Journal of Paleontology, 52: 1325-1345.

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.

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

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Crumillospongia frondosa

Crumillospongia frondosa (USNM 35399) – Holotype. Incomplete specimen showing the large openings (ostia). Specimen diameter = 115 mm. Specimen wet – polarized light. Walcott Quarry.

© Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of Natural History. Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Crumillospongia frondosa
Remarks:

A Hazeliid demosponge closely related to Hazelia (Rigby, 1986). Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1919
Etymology:

Crumillospongia – from the Latin crumilla, “money purse,” and spongia, “sponge,” thus, “purse-like sponge.”

frondosa – from the Latin frons, “leaf,” thus “leaf-like.”

Type Specimens: Holotypes –USNM35399 (C. frondosa),USNM66778 (C. biporosa), in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: C. biporosa Rigby, 1986 from the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

Other deposits: An unidentified species from the Middle Cambrian Chengjiang biota (Chen et al., 1996).

Age & Localities:

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

Burgess Shale and vicinity: The Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge.

Other deposits: C. biporosa Rigby, 1986 from the Early Cambrian Niutitang biota in Guizhou Province (Wang et al., 2005).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Originally described from a single specimen as a member of the cyanobacteria genus Morania by Walcott (1919), Rigby (1986) re-described the organism as a sponge. Rigby also recognizing an additional species C. biporosa within the specimens described by Walcott as Hazelia delicatula in 1920. Additional material collected by the Royal Ontario Museum allowed the descriptions to be further refined (Rigby and Collins, 2004).

Description:

Morphology:

The sac-shaped body of the sponge resembles a leather purse, perforated by a regular-looking pattern of large and small holes. It anchored itself to the sea floor with a rounded base. Its spicules are straight and sometimes tufty, and approximately line up with one another to form a thatch-like skeleton. The walls of the sponge are peppered with millimeter-scale circular-to-elliptical canals of three distinct sizes terminating in pores (ostia). C. biporosa is much smaller than C. frondosa, and only has two size-classes of canal, which are also much smaller than the canals in C. frondosa.

Abundance:

Crumillospongia is rare in the Walcott Quarry where it represents less than 0.1% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008).

Maximum Size:
115 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

Crumillospongia lived attached to or resting on 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., G. Q. ZHOU, M. Y. ZHU AND K. Y. YEH. 1996. The Chengjiang biota a unique window of the Cambrian explosion. National Museum of Natural Science Taiwan, Taichung, 230 p.

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

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: 1-155.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1919. Cambrian Geology and Paleontology. IV. No. 5, Middle Cambrian Algae. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67: 217-260.

WALCOTT, C. D. 1920. Middle Cambrian Spongiae. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67: 261-364.

WANG, P.-L., Y.-L. ZHAO, X.-L. YANG AND R.-J. YANG. 2005. Crumillospongia biporosa (sponge) from the early Cambrian Niutitang biota in Guizhou Province. Acta Micropalaeontologica Sinica, 22: 196-201.

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Choia carteri

3D animation of Choia ridleyi and other sponges (Diagoniella cyathiformis, Eiffelia globosa, Hazelia conferta, Pirania muricata, Vauxia bellula, and Wapkia elongata) and Chancelloria eros a sponge-like form covered of star-shaped spines.

Animation by Phlesch Bubble © Royal Ontario Museum

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Porifera
Phylum: Porifera
Higher Taxonomic assignment: Demospongea (Order: Monaxonida)
Species name: Choia carteri
Remarks:

Choia belongs to an early branch of siliceous sponge, the protomonaxonids at the base of the Demospongea (Rigby, 1986). Demosponges, the same group that are harvested as bath sponges, represent the largest class of sponges today.

Described by: Walcott
Description date: 1920
Etymology:

Choia – derivation unknown, but probably from the Spanish word cholla referring to spiny cacti of the genus Opuntia which resembles the sponge Choia in shape and spiny elements.

carteri – in honor of H. J. Carter, a famous nineteenth century hexactinellid sponge specialist.

Type Specimens: Lectotypes –USNM66482 (C. carteri),USNM66487 (C. ridleyi), in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA. (C. hindei, type and repository information unknown.)
Other species:

Burgess Shale and vicinity: C. ridleyi (Walcott, 1920) from the Walcott Quarry; C. hindei (Dawson, 1896) from the Raymond Quarry.

Other deposits: C. utahensis (Walcott, 1920) from the Middle Cambrian Wheeler and Marjum Formations in Utah (Rigby et al., 2010); C. xiaolantianensis from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang biota (Hou et al., 1999), C. sp. from the same formation near Haikou, Yunnan Province (Luo et al., 1999); and C.? sriata from the Lower Cambrian Hetang Formation, Anhui Province (Xiao et al., 2005). Choia is also known from the Ordovician of Morocco (Botting, 2007).

Age & Localities:

Age:
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 and Raymond Quarries on Fossil Ridge. The Collins Quarry and Trilobite Beds on Mount Stephen.

Other deposits: C. hindei (Dawson, 1896) from the Ordovician of Quebec at Little Métis to the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale; C. carteri, C. hindei from the Middle Cambrian Wheeler and Marjum Formations in Utah (Rigby et al., 2010).

History of Research:

Brief history of research:

Choia was first described by Walcott (1920) based on specimens from the Burgess Shale, Utah and Quebec. The material from the Burgess Shale was re-examined in detail by Rigby (1986) and Rigby and Collins (2004).

Description:

Morphology:

Choia carteri consists of a flattened elliptical disc, up to 2 cm in diameter (5 cm including the long spicules), formed by fine radiating spicules from which stronger and long spicules up to 30 mm in length radiate. Other species differ in size and spine coarseness. C. ridleyi is generally smaller (less than 1.5 cm) and C. hindei larger (up to 8 cm).

Abundance:

Choia is not common in the Walcott Quarry where it represents only 0.2% of the Walcott Quarry community (Caron and Jackson, 2008). Only one specimen of C. hindei is known from the Burgess Shale (Rigby and Collins, 2004).

Maximum Size:
50 mm

Ecology:

Life habits: Porifera
Feeding strategies: Porifera
Ecological Interpretations:

The sponge was not anchored to the sediment, but simply sat unattached on the sea floor. The long spicules are interpreted to have maintained the sponge above the sediment-water interface. Particles of organic matter were extracted from the water as they passed through canals in the sponges wall.

References:

BOTTING, J. P. 2007. ‘Cambrian’ demosponges in the Ordovician of Morocco: insights into the early evolutionary history of sponges. Geobios, 40: 737-748.

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

DAWSON, J. W. 1896. Additional notes on fossil sponges and other organic remains from the Québec Group of Little Métis on the lower St. Lawrence; with notes on some of the specimens by Dr. G.J. Hinde. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 2: 91-129.

HOU, X., J. BERGSTRÖM, H. WANG, X. FENG AND A. CHEN. 1999. The Chengjiang fauna exceptionally well-preserved animals from 530 million years ago. Yunnan Science and Technology Press, Kunming, 170 p.

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.

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

RIGBY, J. K. AND D. COLLINS. 2004. Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and Stephen Formations, British Columbia, 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. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 67(6): 261-364.

XIAO, S., J. HU, X. YUAN, R. L. PARSLEY AND R. CAO. 2005. Articulated sponges from the Lower Cambrian Hetang Formation in southern Anhui, South China: their age and implications for the early evolution of sponges. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 220: 89-117.

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