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Van Iten, H., Cox, R. S. & Mapes, R. H. 1992 04 15: New data on the morphology of Sphenothallus Hall: implications for its affinities. Lethaia, Vol. 25, pp. 135–144. Oslo. ISSN 0024–1164.

Recent speculation on the phylogenetic relationships of Sphenothallus Hall, 1847 has focused on two alternatives: (1) affinity with hydrozoan or scyphozoan cnidarians, or (2) affinity with annelids or other ‘worms’. We have found that some species of Sphenothallus formed branching clonal colonies, and that others produced a thin transverse wall, similar to the conulariid schott. Sphenothallus tests are composed of carbonate apatite and are built of numerous, extremely thin lamellae (< 1 μm) that parallel the surface of the test. The holdfast, long interpreted as consisting of a pair of nested cups, actually consists of a single closed, broadly conical expansion floored by a thin basal membrane. Many thecate hydrozoan and scyphozoan polyps form branching clonal colonies and produce a thin transverse wall, similar to that produced by Sphenothallus. Further, thecae of coronatid scyphozoans are built of submicron-thick lamellae that parallel the outer surface of the theca, and coronatid thecae possess a closed, broadly conical apical expansion that serves as a holdfast. No such combination of characteristics exists among annelids or other non-cnidarian taxa. The recent discovery of paired tentacles in Sphenofhallus from the Early Devonian Hunsrück Slate by Fauchald et al., thought to indicate that Sphenorhallus was wormlike, does not militate against a hypothesis of affinity with cnidarians. We therefore favour the hypothesis of a cnidarian affinity for Sphenothallus. * Sphenothallus, vermiform problematica, phylogenetic inference, coloniality, Cnidoria, Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa, Annelida, conulariids, byroniids, Bear Gulch Limestone.