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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Oct 22;274(1625):2555-61.

New sea spiders from the Jurassic La Voulte-sur-Rhône Lagerstätte.

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UMR 5125 PEPS, CNRS, Université Lyon 1, Campus de la Doua, Bâtiment Géode, 69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.


The diverse and exceptionally well-preserved pycnogonids described herein from the Middle Jurassic La Voulte Lagerstätte fill a 400 Myr gap of knowledge in the evolutionary history of this enigmatic group of marine arthropods. They reveal very close morphological and functional (locomotion, feeding) similarities with present-day pycnogonids and, by contrast, marked differences with all Palaeozoic representatives of the group. This suggests a relatively recent, possibly Mesozoic origin for at least three major extant lineages of pycnogonids (Ammotheidae, Colossendeidae, Endeidae). Combined evidence from depositional environment, faunal associates and recent analogues indicate that the La Voulte pycnogonids probably lived in the upper bathyal zone (ca 200 m). Our results point to a remarkable morphological and ecological stability of this arthropod group over at least 160 Myr and suggest that the colonization of the deep sea by pycnogonids occurred before the Jurassic.

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