Research Highlights: Massive New Species from Cambrian Period Discovered in Canada

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Research Highlights: Massive New Species from Cambrian Period Discovered in Canada

September 10, 2021

  • Radiodonts are arthropods that existed worldwide during the Cambrian period.[2]
  • Radiodonts are known by their distinctive frontal appendages which are structurally diverse and used for many functions.[2]
  • Radiodonts were among the largest and most diversified lower palaeozoic predators.
  • Lower Palaeozoic includes three geological systems: the Cambrian (541.0 to 485.4 million years ago), the Ordovician (485.4 to 443.4 million years ago) and the Silurian (443.4 – 419.2 million years ago).[3]
  • These animals were widely distributed around the world occupying different ecological niches including benthic foragers, nektonic suspension feeders, and apex predators.
  • Benthic foragers search for relatively sessile prey usually at the lowest level of a body of water, while suspension feeders feed on particles of organic matter suspended in the water.[4][5]
  • Researchers discovered the largest Cambrian hurdiid radiodont known so far.
  • Hurdiidae are known to have frontal appendages with distal region composed of 5 subequal blade-like endites, alongside the enlarged head carapaces and tetraradial mouthpart.[6]
  • Endite is one of the appendages of the inner side of the limb of an arthropod.[7]
  • Researchers named the newly discovered species as Titanokorys gainesi, gen. et sp. nov.
  • The new species was discovered at Burgess Shale.
  • Burgess Shale is a fossil-bearing deposit exposed in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia in Canada and it is popular for the exceptional preservation of the soft parts of its fossils.[8]
  • Researchers speculated that the new species can reach half a meter in length.
  • The new species has a very large egg-shaped central carapace with distinct short posterolateral projections and a frontal spine.
  • Analyses emphasize the high diversity of carapace structures in hurdiids.
  • Results suggest that Titanokorys bridges a morphological gap between forms with short and long carapaces.
  • However, carapace shape is prone to homoplasy and shows no consistent relationship with trophic ecology.
  • Homoplasy is the similarity in form or function between parts of different species that are not attributable to their common ancestor but is the result of parallel or convergent evolution.[9]
  • Trophic ecology is the study of the structure of feeding relationships among organisms in an ecosystem.[10]
  • Titanokorys shares similar rake-like appendages for sediment-sifting with Cambroraster.
  • Cambroraster is characterized by a significantly enlarged horseshoe-shaped dorsal carapace.[11]
  • The occurrence of Titanokorys and Cambroraster on the same bedding planes emphasizes potential competition for benthic resources and the high diversity of large predators supported by Cambrian communities.

Related Video

Sources:

Caron J.-B. and Moysiuk J. 2021. A giant nektobenthic radiodont from the Burgess Shale and the significance of hurdiid carapace diversity. R. Soc. open sci.8210664210664. http://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.210664

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiodonta

[3] https://ncs.naturalsciences.be/lower-paleozoic

[4] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benthic_zone

[6] https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1079

[7] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endite

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgess_Shale

[9] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homoplasy

[10] https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/trophic+ecology

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambroraster

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