The Arthropod Sidneyia Inexpectans, Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia

D. L. Bruton


Old and new specimens of Sidneyia inexpectans have been studied and are accompanied by explanatory drawings and photographs. New reconstructions of the animal are given together with a three-dimensional model. The body consisted of a cephalon with a long backwardly directed doublure, a thorax of nine articulating somites, abdomen with cylindrical exoskeleton of two or three somites and a telson. A caudal fan was formed by a pair of uropods articulating at the posterior margin of the last abdominal somite. The cephalon had stalked eyes and preoral antennae but no walking or grasping appendages. The first four somites of the thorax had paired uniramous, prehensile walking legs attached to the body by broad coxae with spiny gnathobases. The coxae were smaller on the five posterior thoracic somites and the paired appendages were biramous, each bearing a gill supported on a flap attached at its proximal end to the first podomere of the leg. The coxa-body attachment resembles that of modern merostomes and is in advance of trilobites. Evidence suggests that Sidneyia was a bottom-living, carnivorous animal eating larger and harder food than trilobites. Gut contents include ostracodes, hyolithids, small trilobites and phosphatic debris. Sidneyia is the earliest known form which could be an ancestor to merostomes, but its body plan and absence of chelicera distinguishes Sidneyia from this group. The holotype of Amiella ornata Walcott, 1911 is reinterpreted and its synonomy with S. inexpectans is confirmed.

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