Silurian brachiopods with soft-tissue preservation

Abstract

‘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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Figure 1: Bethia serraticulma gen. et sp. nov.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Saunders for technical assistance; T. Wright, M. Bassett, L. Holmer and L. Popov for comments; and R. Fenn, T. Hall and J. Sinclair for general assistance. This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, NERC and English Nature.

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Correspondence to Mark D. Sutton.

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Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Video S1

Rotating animation of OUM C. 29586 with associated epifauna (OUM C.29589-29593).

Supplementary Video S2

Rotating animation of OUM C. 29586 with ventral pedicle, ventral valve and epifauna removed (posterior mass also removed for part of animation)

Supplementary Notes

Extended discussion of the systematic position of Bethia serraticulma.

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Sutton, M., Briggs, D., Siveter, D. et al. Silurian brachiopods with soft-tissue preservation. Nature 436, 1013–1015 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03846

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