Abstract

Epipunctae, a new type of shell perforation, are well developed in typical taxa of the family Plaesiomyidae, a group of common orthide brachiopods from Laurentia and some other tropically located tectonic plates of Late Ordovician age. These minute, prominently elongate, tubular structures are similar to endopunctae in size and density, but differ in being oblique, intersecting the shell surface at a relatively low angle, and being confined largely to the outer portion of the shell wall. The tubules are similar in orientation to aditicules within the same shells but are much smaller and denser, usually aligned along fine growth lines and arranged in crude longitudinal columns. Exceptionally preserved phosphatic molds of bundled setal canals inside epipunctae and aditicules, described for the first time in this paper, are direct evidence that these two types of tubular structures of different sizes had the same function of housing sensory setae along the shell margin, but both the setae and the tubules became abandoned in the outer portion of the shell wall through burial by the secondary shell layer when the shell margin migrated forward. Epipunctae have been found so far only in plaesiomyid shells, but aditicules are common in many groups of the order Orthida. The taxonomic value of epipunctae is shown by a reassessment of PionorthisSchuchert and Cooper, 1932. The hypotype previously regarded widely, but erroneously, as the archetype of ‘Orthis solaBillings, 1866, the type species of Pionorthis, is allied to PlaesiomysHall and Clarke, 1892. It bears the characteristic epipunctae. The holotype of Orthis sola is a dalmanelloid shell with true punctae, assignable to MendacellaCooper, 1930. This warrants rejection of the genus Pionorthis.

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