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New opabiniid diversifies the weirdest wonders of the euarthropod lower stem group

By Stephen Pates, Joanna M Wolfe, Rudy Lerosey-Aubril, Allison C Daley, Javier Ortega-Hernandez

Posted 11 Mar 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.10.434726

Once considered "weird wonders" of the Cambrian, the emblematic Burgess Shale animals Anomalocaris and Opabinia are now recognized as lower stem-group euarthropods. Anomalocaris and its relatives (radiodonts) had a worldwide distribution and survived until at least the Devonian, whereas - despite intense study - Opabinia remains the only formally described opabiniid to date. Here we reinterpret a fossil from the Wheeler Formation of Utah as a new opabiniid, KUMIP 314087. By visualizing the sample of phylogenetic topologies in treespace, our results fortify support for the position of KUMIP 314087 beyond the nodal support traditionally applied. Our phylogenetic evidence expands opabiniids to multiple Cambrian Stages spanning approximately five million years. Our results underscore the power of treespace visualization for resolving imperfectly preserved fossils and expanding the known diversity and spatiotemporal ranges within the euarthropod lower stem group.

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