Cambrian Explosion #39: Phylum(?) Lobopodia – The Psychedelic Spectacle

The earliest panarthropods were the lobopodians, small soft-bodied segmented worm-like animals with many pairs of legs, usually tipped with claws, and sometimes elaborate ornamentation on their bodies such as spikes, armor plates, and fleshy bumps.

Since they occupy a basal position among panarthropods it’s likely they weren’t really a distinct lineage or phylum, and were probably more of an “evolutionary grade” of various weird early forms, with tardigrades, velvet worms, and potentially all other arthropods descending from somewhere among their ranks.

While little is known about their lifestyles they seem to have had a wide range of ecological roles, including predators, grazers, scavengers, and even filter-feeders. They’re mostly known  from around the world in the mid-Cambrian, but fossils from over 200 million years later in the late Carboniferous (~310 million years ago) hint that these panarthropods may actually have been successful elements of Paleozoic marine ecosystems for a very long time.

There’s a whole iceberg of weirdness and mystery surrounding these animals and I can’t possibly do them all justice in only a couple of days. So we’ll just have to take a quick look at a few of them before moving on.

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