Banffia, An Enigmatic Fossil From The Chengjiang Biota

Name: Vetulicolia; Banffia confusa

Geological Time: Early Cambrian (~525 million years ago)

Size (25.4mm=1 inch): 25 mm long by 10 mm across on a 50 mm by 64 mm matrix

Fossil Site: Chengjiang - Qiongzhusi Section, Yu'anshan Member, Heilinpu Formation, Chengjiang County, Yunnan Province, China

Banffia confusaDescription: This unusual fossil is Banffia confusa, a member of the Vetulicolians, an enigmatic group which some scientists place in their own phylum (Phylum Vetulicolia). They are thought to have been swimmers (notice the fine segmentation) that either were filter feeders or detritivores. One researcher places them with the Urochordates, giving them strong affinity with the Phylum Chordata. At present, there is no agreement as to their systematic placement. The diversity of soft-tissue fossils is astonishing: algae, medusiforms, sponges, priapulids, annelid-like Jaclyn D Adamek's artistic rendering of fossil worms, echinoderms, arthropods (including trilobites), hemichordates, chordates, and the first agnathan fish make up just a small fraction of the total. Numerous problematic forms are known as well, some of which may have represented failed attempts at diversity that did not persist to the present day. This species is found only within the Chengjiang Biota, but the genus also is found in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia, as indicated by the place name (Banff) used to name the genus by Charles Doolittle Walcott in 1911.

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