Cambrian Explosion #47: Bradoriida

The tiny bradoriids first turn up in the fossil record just before the earliest known trilobites, about 521 million years ago, and very quickly became some of the most abundant euarthropods in the mid-Cambrian. Found all around the world, they were clearly important components of many Cambrian food webs and probably had varying lifestyles from species to species, ranging from living on the seafloor to actively swimming around in the water column.

Less than 2cm long (0.8″), they’re mostly known just from fossils of their bivalved carapaces, but some specimens preserve evidence of a pair of antenna and varying arrangements of biramous and uniramous limbs.

They were traditionally thought to be crustaceans closely related to ostracods, but some studies have instead shifted them towards being considered stem-crustaceans or stem-mandibulates instead. And more recently rare high-detail preservation of the soft anatomy of a few species have suggested they actually belong even further down the arthropod evolutionary tree, as “higher stem” euarthropods positioned between the megacheirans and the earliest actual euarthropods.

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