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The Late Precambrian fossil Kimberella is a mollusc-like bilaterian organism


The fossil Kimberella quadrata was originally described from late Precambrian rocks of southern Australia1. Reconstructed as a jellyfish2, it was later assigned to the cubozoans (‘box jellies’), and has been cited as a clear instance of an extant animal lineage present before the Cambrian3,4,5,6,7. Until recently, Kimberella was known only from Australia, with the exception of some questionable north Indian specimens8. We now have over thirty-five specimens of this fossil from the Winter Coast of the White Sea in northern Russia. Our study of the new material does not support a cnidarian affinity. We reconstruct Kimberella as a bilaterally symmetrical, benthic animal with a non-mineralized, univalved shell, resembling a mollusc in many respects. This is important evidence for the existence of large triploblastic metazoans in the Precambrian and indicates that the origin of the higher groups of protostomes lies well back in the Precambrian.

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Figure 1: Specimens of Kimberella from Ust′-Pinega Formation, Winter Coast of White Sea, all coated with NH4Cl.
Figure 2: Reconstructions of Kimberella.

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We thank the volunteers and colleagues who collected much of this material, inparticular A. Yu. Ivantsov, D. V. Grazhdankin, J. Woland and A. G. Collins; Yu. I. Nikolaev, L.S.Zakharchenkova, the Paleontological Institute in Moscow, and the Arkhangel'skgeologiya office inArkhangel'sk, for field logistical support; R. van Syoc (California Academy of Sciences) for access to specimens of extant invertebrates; D. R. Lindberg and J. G. Gehling for helpful comments; A. Mazin for photography and Y. A. Afanasiev for artwork.

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Fedonkin, M., Waggoner, B. The Late Precambrian fossil Kimberella is a mollusc-like bilaterian organism. Nature 388, 868–871 (1997).

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