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Skimming the surface with Burgess Shale arthropod locomotion

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The first arthropod trackways are described from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale Formation of Canada. Trace fossils, including trackways, provide a rich source of biological and ecological information, including direct evidence of behaviour not commonly available from body fossils alone. The discovery of large arthropod trackways is unique for Burgess Shale-type deposits. Trackway dimensions and the requisite number of limbs are matched with the body plan of a tegopeltid arthropod. Tegopelte, one of the rarest Burgess Shale animals, is over twice the size of all other benthic arthropods known from this locality, and only its sister taxon, Saperion, from the Lower Cambrian Chengjiang biota of China, approaches a similar size. Biomechanical trackway analysis demonstrates that tegopeltids were capable of rapidly skimming across the seafloor and, in conjunction with the identification of gut diverticulae in Tegopelte, supports previous hypotheses on the locomotory capabilities and carnivorous mode of life of such arthropods. The trackways occur in the oldest part (Kicking Horse Shale Member) of the Burgess Shale Formation, which is also known for its scarce assemblage of soft-bodied organisms, and indicate at least intermittent oxygenated bottom waters and low sedimentation rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1613-1620
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1733
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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