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Moulting in the lobopodian Onychodictyon from the lower Cambrian of Greenland

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Abstract

A number of lobopodian taxa from the Cambrian display pairs of sclerotized plates symmetrically positioned along the dorsum of the animal, predominantly above the walking appendages. Most genera were described from complete body fossils exquisitely preserved in the famous Cambrian Lagerstätten, but lobopodian phosphatized plates are found worldwide as typical components of Cambrian small shelly fossil assemblages (SSF). Details regarding intraspecific and ontogenetic variation in lobopod plates are elusive, and the lack of details of ornamentation in Lagerstätte specimens does not minimize the problem. We document here an assemblage of well-preserved isolated plates of Onychodictyon sp. from the Lower Cambrian (Cambrian Series 2, Stage 4) of North Greenland. Two specimens exhibit perfectly conjoined plates from successive moults. Details of ornamentation and the outline and profile of the fixed plates are identical, but width and length of the underlying plate are 24% larger. These specimens boost the body of evidence that lobopodians moulted but also show that plate outline and ornamentation did not vary during ontogeny.

Ancillary