Exceptionally preserved Cambrian loriciferans and the early animal invasion of the meiobenthos

Harvey, Thomas H. P. and Butterfield, N. J. (2017) Exceptionally preserved Cambrian loriciferans and the early animal invasion of the meiobenthos. Nature Ecology & Evolution. ISSN 2397-334X DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-016-0022

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Microscopic animals that live among and between sediment grains (meiobenthic metazoans) are key constituents of modern aquatic ecosystems, but are effectively absent from the fossil record. We describe an assemblage of microscopic fossil loriciferans (Ecdysozoa, Loricifera) from the late Cambrian Deadwood Formation of western Canada. The fossils share a characteristic head structure and minute adult body size (~300 μm) with modern loriciferans, indicating the early evolution and subsequent conservation of an obligate, permanently meiobenthic lifestyle. The unsuspected fossilization potential of such small animals in marine mudstones offers a new search image for the earliest ecdysozoans and other animals, although the anatomical complexity of loriciferans points to their evolutionary miniaturization from a larger-bodied ancestor. The invasion of animals into ecospace that was previously monopolized by protists will have contributed considerably to the revolutionary geobiological feedbacks of the Proterozoic/Phanerozoic transition.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2017AREP; IA72; bull
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Nature Ecology & Evolution
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-016-0022
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2017 18:03
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2017 16:25
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/3810

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