Aspiculate demosponges are rarely described in geological history due to the absence of spicules that are stable and resistant to degradation. One exception is the exquisite preservation of sponges without any mineralized skeletons discovered in Lagerstätten (e.g. the Burgess Shale). The Chengjiang Biota, an early example of a Burgess Shale-type biota in South China (Cambrian Series 2, Stage 3), is one of the only examples of convincing aspiculate sponges until now. Here, we describe Vauxia pregracilenta sp. nov. and V. paraleioia sp. nov., as well as two poorly preserved vauxiid specimens (Vauxia sp.) in open nomenclature, from the Chengjiang Biota. Vauxia pregracilenta has a fan-like holdfast and branches in various sizes, as well as a typical two-layered net-like skeleton, without spicules. The endosomal layer is hexagonal, while the dermal layer is sub-rectangular. Vauxia paraleioia is characterized by a two-layered subconical skeleton, with the dermal layer ornamented with vertical surface grooves. The openings of the dermal and endosomal layers of V. paraleioia are both hexagonal but of different sizes. These newly discovered Vauxia species indicate that the aspiculate sponges were diversified in the early Cambrian. Partial silicification of the fibres of aspiculate Vauxia are confirmed from the Chengjiang Biota.
Thematic collection: This article is part of the Advances in the Cambrian Explosion collection available at: https://www.lyellcollection.org/cc/advances-cambrian-explosion