Traditionally, the origin and evolution of modern arthropod body plans has been revealed through increasing levels of appendage specialisation exhibited by Cambrian euarthropods. Here we show significant variation in limb morphologies and patterns of limb-tagmosis among three early Cambrian arthropod species conventionally assigned to the Bradoriida. These arthropods are recovered as a monophyletic stem-euarthropod group (and sister taxon to crown-group euarthropods, i.e. Chelicerata, Mandibulata and their extinct relatives), thus implying a radiation of stem-euarthropods where trends towards increasing appendage specialisation were explored convergently with other euarthropod groups. The alternative solution, where bradoriids are polyphyletic, representing several independent origins of a small, bivalved body plan in lineages from diverse regions of the euarthropod and mandibulate stems, is only marginally less parsimonious. The new data reveal a previously unknown disparity of body plans in stem-euarthropods and both solutions support remarkable evolutionary convergence, either of fundamental body plans or appendage specialization patterns.
Keywords: Palaeoecology; Palaeontology.