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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Profile

Publication details for Professor David Harper

Stein, M., Budd, G.E., Peel, J.S. & Harper, D.A.T. (2013). Arthroaspis n. gen., a common element of the Sirius Passet Lagerstätte (Cambrian, North Greenland), sheds light on trilobite ancestry. BMC Evolutionary Biology 13: 99.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Background: Exceptionally preserved Palaeozoic faunas have yielded a plethora of trilobite-like arthropods, often referred to as lamellipedians. Among these, Artiopoda is supposed to contain taxa united by a distinctive appendage structure. This includes several well supported groups, Helmetiida, Nektaspida, and Trilobita, as well as a number of problematic taxa. Interrelationships remain unclear, and the position of the lamellipedian arthropods as a whole also remains the subject of debate.

Results: Arthroaspis bergstroemi n. gen. n. sp., a new arthropod from the early Cambrian Sirius Passet Lagerstätte of North Greenland shows a striking combination of both dorsal and ventral characters of Helmetiida, Nektaspida, and Trilobita. Cladistic analysis with a broad taxon sampling of predominantly early Palaeozoic arthropods yields a monophyletic Lamellipedia as sister taxon to the Crustacea or Tetraconata. Artiopoda is resolved as paraphyletic, giving rise to the Marrellomorpha. Within Lamellipedia, a clade of pygidium bearing taxa is resolved that can be shown to have a broadly helmetiid-like tergite morphology in its ground pattern. This morphology is plesiomorphically retained in Helmetiida and in Arthroaspis, which falls basally into a clade containing Trilobita. The trilobite appendages, though similar to those of other lamellipedians in gross morphology, have a unique outward rotation of the anterior trunk appendages, resulting in a ‘hard wired’ lateral splay, different to that observed in other Lamellipedia.

Conclusions: The combination of helmetiid, trilobite, and nektaspid characters in Arthroaspis gives important hints concerning character polarisation within the trilobite-like arthropods. The distinctive tergite morphology of trilobites, with its sophisticated articulating devices, is derived from flanged edge-to-edge articulating tergites forming a shield similar to the helmetiids, previously considered autapomorphic for that group. The stereotypical lateral splay of the appendages of lamellipedians is a homoplastic character shown to be achieved by several groups independently.