Lobopodian Paucipodia inermis from Chengjiang
"velvet worm with legs"

Paucipodia inermis

Phylum Lobopodia

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

Size (25.4mm=1 inch): 27 mm long on a 44 mm by 27 mm matrix pair

Fossil Site: Chengjiang Maotianshan Shales, Quiongzhusi Section, Yu’anshan Member, Heilinpu Formation, Anning, Yunnan Province, China

Paucipodia inermis Description: The discovery of the Chengjiang Biota by Hou Xian-guang in 1984 resulted in a clear window on what is known as the Cambrian Explosion. The diversity of soft-tissue fossils is astonishing: algae, medusiforms, sponges, priapulids, annelid-like 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.

The Lobopodians are small marine and terrestrial animals termed colloquially “velvet worms” or “worms with legs”. While all Recent forms are terrestrial, most fossil Lobopodians are marine, and are known primarily from the Cambrian. Six named genera, each with a single species, are known from the Chengjiang Biota, making it the richest source of fossils Paucipodiaof the type on Earth. This is one of the most unusual, and quite rare; it was originally known from only four incomplete specimens, and was given the generic name Paucipodia (few feet) because it was thought to have 3 fewer pairs of legs than other members. A scant few recent examples show a complement of nine leg pairs. Each leg bears curved claws which are thought to have served the creature as an adaptation to crawling on other organisms. Indeed, some have been found in close association with Eldonia. It is most closely related to Aysheaia from the younger Burgess Shale. While not complete, it is quite rare, especially as a part/counterpart example. There may be more of the limbs still contained within the matrix, as turned out to be the case with an Onychodictyon I had from the same region. I will leave further preparation to the one fortunate enough to acquire such a unique specimen.

Also see: Chengjiang Biota List Chengjiang Fossils

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