Articulated Wiwaxia from the Cambrian Stage 3 Xiaoshiba lagerstätte

Sci Rep. 2014 Apr 10;4:4643. doi: 10.1038/srep04643.


Wiwaxia is a bizarre metazoan that has been interpreted as a primitive mollusc and as a polychaete annelid worm. Extensive material from the Burgess Shale provides a detailed picture of its morphology and ontogeny, but the fossil record outside this lagerstätte is scarce, and complete wiwaxiids are particularly rare. Here we report small articulated specimens of Wiwaxia foliosa sp. nov. from the Xiaoshiba fauna (Cambrian Stage 3, Hongjingshao Formation, Kunming, south China). Although spines are absent, the fossils' sclerites - like those of W. corrugata - are symmetrically arranged in five distinct zones. They form rows across the body, and were individually added and shed throughout growth to retain an approximately symmetrical body shape. Their development pattern suggests a molluscan affinity. The basic body plan of wiwaxiids is fundamentally conserved across two continents through Cambrian Stages 3-5 - revealing morphological stasis in the wake of the Cambrian explosion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • China
  • Fossils*
  • Mollusca / anatomy & histology*
  • Mollusca / classification*
  • Paleontology
  • Phylogeny
  • Polychaeta / anatomy & histology*
  • Polychaeta / classification*