Cambrian Explosion #44: Isoxyida

Isoxyids were a group of small and somewhat enigmatic panarthropods found all around the world’s oceans during the mid-Cambrian, dating to between about 518 and 504 million years ago.

Their most distinctive feature was the large semi-circular carapace covering their bodies, with some species also having long defensive spines at the front and rear ends. They had spherical stalked eyes and two large appendages on their heads – sometimes shaped like sensory antennae, and sometimes like raptorial front appendages – but it’s unclear whether these were anatomically equivalent to the appendages of radiodonts or if they were convergently evolved from a different set of front limbs.

Their body limbs each had two distinct branches (a biramous condition), with a paddle-like structure fringed with gills above, and a slim jointed leg underneath. A small tail fan stuck out from the back of their carapace and was probably used for steering while swimming.

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