Abstract

The fossil record of siliceous sponges, compared with that of other skeleton- secreting Metazoa, is poorly known, based as it is on disarticulated spicules and sporadically preserved body fossils. Abundant spicules recovered from Lower Cambrian strata in Shaanxi, China, essentially double the known morphological diversity of siliceous sponges for that interval of geologic time. These fossils, along with a comparable coeval fauna from South Australia, have a remarkably modern aspect, thereby demonstrating that the principal siliceous sponge groups and styles of body architecture were established quickly in the earliest Phanerozoic as part of the Cambrian "explosion" and that they inhabited a variety of low-energy, relatively deep water settings. The similarity of spicule shape and variation to that of younger assemblages reflects a conservative architecture for the siliceous sponges.

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