The Middle Cambrian Trilobite Naraoia, Burgess Shale, British Columbia

H. B. Whittington


The type species of the genus, N. compacta, is described from new preparations and measurements of over 100 specimens from C. D. Walcott's original collection, and 5 from the recent re-investigation. Photographs and explanatory drawings provide the basis for considerations of mode of preservation, and lead to a new reconstruction. The dorsal exoskeleton was divided by a single articulation into two shields, each moderately convex with a raised axial region, the subcircular anterior shield over-lapping for a short distance the longer posterior shield; narrow reflexed doublure on both shields. Dorsal surfaces of shields smooth, without transverse furrows, eyes absent. Axial region of anterior shield widest posteriorly, extending forward to three-quarters length of shield, labrum may have been present under anterior portion. Axial region of posterior shield tapered back, reaching close to posterior margin of shield. Alimentary canal may be preserved filled with sediment, and was probably U-shaped anteriorly, broadest beneath anterior portion of axial region, tapering back to tip of posterior shield. Two types of alimentary diverticula preserved as reflective bands on anterior shield; single trunk of lateral diverticula ran transversely at midlength and ramified beneath lateral region of shield; three pairs of axial diverticula, one per segment, originated behind main trunk of lateral diverticula and ramified in posterior part of axial region. Axial diverticula, one per segment and not ramifying, appear to have been present beneath the axial region of the posterior shield. Paired areas of muscle attachment, preserved as reflective or pyritous areas, are segmentally arranged along the axial region, one pair close together at the anterior extremity. One pair of long, uniramous, multi-jointed antennae was attached beside anterior extremity of axial region, followed by a maximum of 19 pairs of similar biramous appendages, three pairs on the posterior part of the anterior shield, remainder beneath posterior shield. Large triangular coxa strongly spinose on adaxial margin; inner, leg branch of five podomeres and terminal, thorn-like spine; large, spinose endite on proximal podomere. Outer branch arose from abaxial, dorsal margin of coxa, and consisted of slim, tapering shaft with terminal lobe, dorsal margin of shaft bore many long, thin, upward and backwardly directed lamellae. Specimens range in length from 9 to 40 mm, some 40% of the sample being cast dorsal exoskeletons, the remainder whole animals. About one-fifth of the sample bore a posterolateral spine on the anterior shield, rather than having a rounded angle. This difference was recently used to erect two new species, Naraoia halia and N. pammon; here it is taken as the sole evidence of dimorphism in the single species N. compacta. A second species, N. spinifer, is recognized from two poorly-preserved specimens, characterized by seven pairs of lateral spines and a median posterior spine on the margins of the posterior shield; the axial region is poorly defined and appendages virtually unknown. N. compacta is considered to have been a benthonic predator and scavenger, walking, digging and raking in search of food much as did the trilobite Olenoides serratus, and to have had poor swimming powers. The lamellate outer branch of the appendage is regarded as a gill branch, aerated by currents produced when walking and swimming or drifting. There is no evidence of an abdomen or telson, so that N. compacta is a trilobite-like animal lacking the articulated thorax; it is regarded as representing a separate order of class Trilobita.

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