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Nectocaris

Nectocaris is the fossil of an animal of unknown affinity from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale near Field, British Columbia[?]. It was described by Simon Conway-Morris[?] in 1976. The head has two eyes, one or two pairs of appendages and an oval carapace[?] or shield at the rear. No shell hinge is visible in the single known specimen. The rest of the animal consists of about 40 segments -- each with three short spines on the top and bottom. Long fins run the length of the top and bottom of the animal. The species is based on a single specimen and is thought to be a hemichordate, chordate, possibly an arthropod, remotely possibly a crustacean, or very likely something else. It is thought to be a free swimming animal caught by accident in a turbidity flow. It is unclear whether growth was by moulting (as with arthropods) or not. There appear to be no hard parts. The pair of short straight appendages on the front of the head appear to be unjointed.

The curious combination of arthropod and vertebrate characteristics in Nectocaris has arroused a lot of interest. Other than this single fossil, there is no reason to think that the two phyla are closely related. Most evidence indicates that the arthropods are closely related to the Annelid worms and mollusks. Vertebrates are thought to be more closely related to echinoderms.

There is one known species, Nectocaris pteryx.



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