Letter

Nature 436, 1013-1015 (18 August 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03846; Received 16 December 2004; Accepted 23 May 2005

Silurian brachiopods with soft-tissue preservation

Mark D. Sutton1, Derek E. G. Briggs2, David J. Siveter3 & Derek J. Siveter4,5

  1. Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK
  2. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, PO Box 208109, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8109, USA
  3. Department of Geology, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
  4. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
  5. Geological Collections, University Museum of Natural History, Oxford OX1 3PW, UK

Correspondence to: Mark D. Sutton1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.D.S. (Email: m.sutton@imperial.ac.uk).

'Articulated' rhynchonelliformean1 brachiopods are abundant shelly fossils, but the direct fossil record of their soft parts was hitherto confined to a single pyritized trace possibly representing a lophophore2. Anatomical knowledge of extinct rhynchonelliformeans relies heavily on analogies to extant species; these analogies are untested for stem-group clades. The Silurian Herefordshire (UK) Konservat-Lagerstätte3 (about 425 Myr bp) yields exceptionally preserved three-dimensional fossils that provide unrivalled insights into the palaeobiology of a variety of invertebrates4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The fossils are preserved as calcitic void in-fills in carbonate concretions within a volcaniclastic horizon10, and are reconstructed digitally11. Here we describe a stem-group rhynchonelliformean specimen from this deposit; it most probably belongs in the order Orthida. A robust ridged pedicle with distal rootlets is preserved, together with a lophophore and other soft-tissue structures. The pedicle morphology is novel, urging caution in inferring stem-group rhynchonelliformean anatomy from that of crown-group species. Smaller brachiopods are attached to the specimen; these include a probable atrypide, with pedicle and marginal setae preserved.

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