A comparative study of Lower Cambrian Halkieria and Middle Cambrian Wiwaxia



Two Cambrian lepidote metazoans known from different respective types of preservation have been compared in order to elucidate their biology and affinities. The widely distributed Lower Cambrian Halkieria is represented by isolated hollow sclerites, probably of originally calcareous composition. The Middle Cambrian Wiwaxia is known from the Burgess Shale as isolated sclerites (scales and spines) and as more or less complete individuals. Although Halkieria sclerites were mineralized and those of Wiwaxia were probably not, there are fundamental structural and morphological similarities between the two. Both bad an imbricating scaly and spiny armour consisting of hollow sclerites with a longitudinally fibrous structure. The sclerites did not grow, but were probably moulted during the course of ontogenetic growth. Halkieria and Wiwaxia are regarded as closely related. Both are referred to the Order Sachitida He 1980. The sclerite armour of Halkieria is reconstructed on the template provided by Wiwaxia. The interpretation of sachitid sclerites as protective armour is an alternative to the interpretation by Jell (1981, Alcheringa 5)that sachitid sclerites were respiratory organs in an animal of probable annelid affinities. Sachitids are interpreted as sluggish, benthic deposit feeders that do not belong to any recognized phylum.