Exceptional Priapulid Worm Fossil from Cambrian Utah

Phylum Priapulida indet

Geological Time: Upper Middle Cambrian (~520 million years ago)

Size: 140 mm long

Fossil Site: Weeks Formation, Millard County, Utah

Priapulid Worm FossilDescription: This unusual specimen shows a large priapulid worm with fine details evident (notice the annulation). Priapulid worms are among the fossils also found in the Burgess shale and older Chengjiang Biota, and ancestors are still extant today. They are as biologically complex as arthropods, and are thus important in the Cambrian fossil record. Taxonomically, they belong to a group named the Cephalorhyncha that are ecdysozoan animals -- encompassing the arthropods (insects, spiders, and crustaceans) and the nemotodes. The grouping is based on a set of shared characters including the presence of a cuticle and the fact that they periodically shed their cuticle in a process called ecdysis. All cephalorhynchs have a spiny proboscis that is used to gather food.

Also see: Cambrian Explosion Fossils of Utah

click fossil pictures to enlarge

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