Diversification of early cnidarians : exceptionally preserved microfossils from the Kuanchuanpu Formation (lower Cambrian; 535 Ma), Shaanxi Province, China

Abstract : The lowermost Cambrian (Fortunian Stage; ca. 535 Ma) Kuanchuanpu Formation from China contains a great variety of secondarily phosphatized Small Shelly Fossils such as exoskeletal elements of various animal groups but also yields three-dimension allypreserved embryos and larval stages interpreted as cnidarians by previous authors. This biota is an exceptional source of information on the early steps of animal biodiversification before its full development (e.g. early Cambrian, Series 2, Stage 3).We explored the morphology of these sub-millimetric fossil organisms by means of Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Computed X-ray Microtomography (XTM) and Synchrotron X-ray Microtomography (SRXTM), and tested their cnidarian affinities and analyzed their possible relation to modern cnidarian groups. Some of them (e.g.Olivooides and related forms) can be reasonably considered as cnidarians based on their internal anatomy, radial symmetry and external features, and may belong to the stem groups Scyphozoa, Cubozoa and Anthozoa. Crown-group scyphozoans,cubozoans, anthozoans and hydrozoans seem to appear later in the evolution of cnidarians, not before Stage 3, Series 2 of the early Cambrian as indicated by the jellyfish from the Chengjiang Lagerstätte (ca. 521 Ma) which closely resemble modern tetraradial medusae and possessed sophisticated sensory organs. Our study highlights some important “atypical” features of the ancestral cnidarians from the Kuanchuanpubiota such as 1) the co-existence of diverse symmetry patterns, 2) the prevalence of pentaradial symmetry, 3) a possible direct development (with no planula larva) contrasting with all modern cnidarians and 4) a small body size consistent with ameiobenthic lifestyle
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Xing Wang. Diversification of early cnidarians : exceptionally preserved microfossils from the Kuanchuanpu Formation (lower Cambrian; 535 Ma), Shaanxi Province, China. Paleontology. Université de Lyon, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018LYSE1308⟩. ⟨tel-02269215⟩

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