Abstract

Recent description of the oral cone of Anomalocaris canadensis from the Burgess Shale (Cambrian Series 3, Stage 5) highlighted significant differences from published accounts of this iconic species, and prompts a new evaluation of its morphology as a whole. All known specimens of A. canadensis, including previously unpublished material, were examined with the aim of providing a cohesive morphological description of this stem lineage arthropod. In contrast to previous descriptions, the dorsal surface of the head is shown to be covered by a small, oval carapace in close association with paired stalked eyes, and the ventral surface bears only the triradial oral cone, with no evidence of a hypostome or an anterior sclerite. The frontal appendages reveal new details of the arthrodial membranes and a narrower cross-section in dorsal view than previously reconstructed. The posterior body region reveals a complex suite of digestive, respiratory, and locomotory characters that include a differentiated foregut and hindgut, a midgut with paired glands, gill-like setal blades, and evidence of muscle bundles and struts that presumably supported the swimming movement of the body flaps. The tail fan includes a central blade in addition to the previously described three pairs of lateral blades. Some of these structures have not been identified in other anomalocaridids, making Anomalocaris critical for understanding the functional morphology of the group as a whole and corroborating its arthropod affinities.

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