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Earth's oldest 'Bobbit worm' - Gigantism in a Devonian eunicidan polychaete

Eriksson, Mats E. LU ; Parry, Luke A. and Rudkin, David M. (2017) In Scientific Reports 7.
Abstract

Whilst the fossil record of polychaete worms extends to the early Cambrian, much data on this group derive from microfossils known as scolecodonts. These are sclerotized jaw elements, which generally range from 0.1-2 mm in size, and which, in contrast to the soft-body anatomy, have good preservation potential and a continuous fossil record. Here we describe a new eunicidan polychaete, Websteroprion armstrongi gen. et sp. nov., based primarily on monospecific bedding plane assemblages from the Lower-Middle Devonian Kwataboahegan Formation of Ontario, Canada. The specimens are preserved mainly as three-dimensional moulds in the calcareous host rock, with only parts of the original sclerotized jaw walls occasionally present. This new taxon... (More)

Whilst the fossil record of polychaete worms extends to the early Cambrian, much data on this group derive from microfossils known as scolecodonts. These are sclerotized jaw elements, which generally range from 0.1-2 mm in size, and which, in contrast to the soft-body anatomy, have good preservation potential and a continuous fossil record. Here we describe a new eunicidan polychaete, Websteroprion armstrongi gen. et sp. nov., based primarily on monospecific bedding plane assemblages from the Lower-Middle Devonian Kwataboahegan Formation of Ontario, Canada. The specimens are preserved mainly as three-dimensional moulds in the calcareous host rock, with only parts of the original sclerotized jaw walls occasionally present. This new taxon has a unique morphology and is characterized by an unexpected combination of features seen in several different Palaeozoic polychaete families. Websteroprion armstrongi was a raptorial feeder and possessed the largest jaws recorded in polychaetes from the fossil record, with maxillae reaching over one centimetre in length. Total body length of the species is estimated to have reached over one metre, which is comparable to that of extant 'giant eunicid' species colloquially referred to as 'Bobbit worms'. This demonstrates that polychaete gigantism was already a phenomenon in the Palaeozoic, some 400 million years ago.

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publication status
published
subject
in
Scientific Reports
volume
7
publisher
Nature Publishing Group
external identifiers
  • scopus:85013436180
  • wos:000394703800001
ISSN
2045-2322
DOI
10.1038/srep43061
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f4c640b8-1b84-47ca-b53e-29fe781fddb4
date added to LUP
2017-03-08 10:46:32
date last changed
2017-09-18 11:37:57
@article{f4c640b8-1b84-47ca-b53e-29fe781fddb4,
  abstract     = {<p>Whilst the fossil record of polychaete worms extends to the early Cambrian, much data on this group derive from microfossils known as scolecodonts. These are sclerotized jaw elements, which generally range from 0.1-2 mm in size, and which, in contrast to the soft-body anatomy, have good preservation potential and a continuous fossil record. Here we describe a new eunicidan polychaete, Websteroprion armstrongi gen. et sp. nov., based primarily on monospecific bedding plane assemblages from the Lower-Middle Devonian Kwataboahegan Formation of Ontario, Canada. The specimens are preserved mainly as three-dimensional moulds in the calcareous host rock, with only parts of the original sclerotized jaw walls occasionally present. This new taxon has a unique morphology and is characterized by an unexpected combination of features seen in several different Palaeozoic polychaete families. Websteroprion armstrongi was a raptorial feeder and possessed the largest jaws recorded in polychaetes from the fossil record, with maxillae reaching over one centimetre in length. Total body length of the species is estimated to have reached over one metre, which is comparable to that of extant 'giant eunicid' species colloquially referred to as 'Bobbit worms'. This demonstrates that polychaete gigantism was already a phenomenon in the Palaeozoic, some 400 million years ago.</p>},
  articleno    = {43061},
  author       = {Eriksson, Mats E. and Parry, Luke A. and Rudkin, David M.},
  issn         = {2045-2322},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {02},
  publisher    = {Nature Publishing Group},
  series       = {Scientific Reports},
  title        = {Earth's oldest 'Bobbit worm' - Gigantism in a Devonian eunicidan polychaete},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep43061},
  volume       = {7},
  year         = {2017},
}