Abstract

Cambrothyra ampulliformisQian and Zhang, 1983, is a jar- or vase-shaped fossil known from the Lower Cambrian of Shaanxi and Hubei provinces, China. It has been interpreted as a protistan test or cyst or a metazoan sclerite. A large collection of specimens from the Xihaoping Member of the Dengying Formation in southern Shaanxi Province permits its detailed redescription. These fossils are highly variable in shape but this variation is continuous and does not support the current recognition of multiple species for this material. They were originally hollow with a restricted basal foramen and a calcareous wall probably composed of fibrous aragonite. All of these features support the identification of Cambrothyra as sclerites of a coeloscleritophoran, a problematic group of Cambrian scleritome-bearing metazoans. Furthermore, the walls of Cambrothyra sclerites contain numerous pores, a feature shared with other coeloscleritophorans. Cambrothyra resembles chancelloriids in particular due to the shared presence of a verruculose texture around the foramen and the absence of mirror-image pairs of asymmetric sclerites. However, unlike chancelloriids, which have rosette-like compound sclerites, the scleritome of Cambrothyra was dominated by isolated sclerites, with only a few pairs and clusters of sclerites and twin sclerites. Consequently, we hypothesize that Cambrothyra forms a clade with other chancelloriids, but represents a basal lineage that plesiomorphically retained isolated sclerites. The morphology of Cambrothyra sclerites, which shares features with both chancelloriids and halkieriids, thus supports the hypothesis that all coeloscleritophorans form a natural group.

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