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Articulated Halkieriids from the Lower Cambrian of North Greenland and their Role in Early Protostome Evolution

S. Conway Morris and J. S. Peel
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 347, No. 1321 (Feb. 28, 1995), pp. 305-358
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/55950
Page Count: 54
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Articulated Halkieriids from the Lower Cambrian of North Greenland and their Role in Early Protostome Evolution
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Abstract

Articulated halkieriids of Halkieria evangelista sp. nov. are described from the Sirius Passet fauna in the Lower Cambrian Buen Formation of Peary Land, North Greenland. Three zones of sclerites are recognizable: obliquely inclined rows of dorsal palmates, quincuncially inserted lateral cultrates and imbricated bundles of ventro-lateral siculates. In addition there is a prominent shell at both ends, each with radial ornamentation. Both sclerites and shells were probably calcareous, but increase in body size led to insertion of additional sclerites but marginal accretion of the shells. The ventral sole was soft and, in life, presumably muscular. Recognizable features of internal anatomy include a gut trace and possible musculature, inferred from imprints on the interior of the anterior shell. Halkieriids are closely related to the Middle Cambrian Wiwaxia, best known from the Burgess Shale: this clade appears to have played an important role in early protostome evolution. From an animal fairly closely related to Wiwaxia arose the polychaete annelids; the bundles of siculate sclerites prefigure the neurochaetae whereas the dorsal notochaetae derive from the palmates. Wiwaxia appears to have a relic shell and a similar structure in the sternaspid polychaetes may be an evolutionary remnant. The primitive state in extant polychaetes is best expressed in groups such as chrysopetalids, aphroditaceans and amphinomids. The homology between polychaete chaetae and the mantle setae of brachiopods is one line of evidence to suggest that the latter phylum arose from a juvenile halkieriid in which the posterior shell was first in juxtaposition to the anterior and rotated beneath it to provide the bivalved condition of an ancestral brachiopod. H. evangelista sp. nov. has shells which resemble those of a brachiopod; in particular the posterior one. From predecessors of the halkieriids known as siphogonuchitids it is possible that both chitons (polyplacophorans) and conchiferan molluscs arose. The hypothesis of halkieriids and their relatives having a key role in annelid-brachiopod-mollusc evolution is in accord with some earlier proposals and recent evidence from molecular biology. It casts doubt, however, on a number of favoured concepts including the primitive annelid being oligochaetoid and a burrower, the brachiopods being deuterostomes and the coelom being an archaic feature of metazoans. Rather, the annelid coelom arose as a functional consequence of the transition from a creeping halkieriid to a polychaete with stepping parapodial locomotion.

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