Botting, J.P., Muir, L.A., Xiao, S., Li, X. & Lin, J.-P. 2012: Evidence for spicule homology in calcareous and siliceous sponges: biminerallic spicules in Lenica sp. from the Early Cambrian of South China. Lethaia, Vol. 45, pp. 463–475.
The relationships of the extant sponge classes, and the nature of the last common ancestor of all sponges, are currently unclear. Early sponges preserved in the fossil record differ greatly from extant taxa, and therefore information from the fossil record is critical for testing hypotheses of sponge phylogenetic relationships that are based on modern taxa. New specimens of the enigmatic sponge Lenica sp., from the Early Cambrian Hetang Biota of South China, exhibit an unusual spicule structure. Each spicule consists of a siliceous core with an axial canal, an organic outer layer and a middle layer interpreted to have been originally calcium carbonate. This finding confirms previous work suggesting the existence of biminerallic spicules in early sponges. Combined with data from other early sponges, the new findings imply that the two fundamental spicule structures of modern sponges were derived from a compound, biminerallic precursor. Spicules are therefore homologous structures in Calcarea and Silicea, and if sponges are paraphyletic with respect to Eumetazoa, then spicules may also have been a primitive feature of Metazoa. □Calcarea, Early Cambrian, Hetang Biota, phylogeny, Silicea, taphonomy.