GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 67-2
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


WHITAKER, Anna F., Museum Studies & Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, JAMISON, Paul, 371 N 500 W, Logan, UT 84321, SCHIFFBAUER, James D., X-ray Microanalysis Core, University of Missouri, 101 Geological Sciences Building, Columbia, MO 65211 and KIMMIG, Julien, Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045

The middle Cambrian (Miaolingian; Wuliuan) Spence Shale member of the Langston Formation of Utah and Idaho preserves a diverse assemblage of biomineralized and soft-bodied taxa. Among the rarest specimens of this fauna are palaeoscolecid worms. Until recently, only one specimen was known from the Spence Shale, the holotype specimen of Paleoscolex ratcliffei Robison 1969, later included in the genus Wronascolex. This specimen is preserved as part and counterpart but missing both the posterior and anterior terminations. A new specimen (KUMIP 490902), discovered by Riley Smith, preserves an everted proboscis with spines, but is missing the anterior end. Based on comparisons of the holotype and new specimen using scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDS), the species is thought to represent a new genus, and not a species of Palaeoscolex or Wronascolex as previously suggested. The new genus differs from the other two genera in the lack of node ornamentation of the plates, as well as the absence of microplates and platelets. Based on this case study, it is recommended that future revisions of palaeoscolecid taxonomy require knowledge of plate, platelet, and microplate ornamentation, as well as the arrangement of the plates, platelets, and microplates on the cuticle.

In addition to the improved morphologic information provided by KUMIP 490902, it also advances our knowledge of the taphonomic pathways in the Spence Shale and in palaeoscolecid worms in general. The preservation of the plates of the two specimens of this species differ in elemental composition, and somewhat in quality. While both the holotype and new specimen show localized magnesium and phosphorus within the plates, the holotype has a substantial iron component whereas the new specimen instead shows elevated calcium. In addition, kerogenization, pyritization, aluminosilicification, and phosphatization can be observed throughout the specimen. The preservation varies not only between the specimens, but also within, demonstrating the high variability of preservation pathways within a Burgess Shale-type deposit, and providing insights into the circumstances that lead to soft-bodied preservation in the Spence Shale.