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Biol Lett. 2008 Dec 23;4(6):724-8. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0277.

The Early Cambrian tommotiid Micrina, a sessile bivalved stem group brachiopod.

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Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology, Uppsala University, Villav├Ągen 16, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.


The tannuolinid Micrina belongs to the tommotiids-a common and widely distributed, but poorly understood, group of Early Cambrian fossil metazoans with multiple external organophosphatic sclerites. Recent findings of sessile articulated tommotiid scleritomes indicate that previous reconstructions of tommotiids as slug-like bilaterians with a dorsal cover of sclerites require detailed re-evaluation. Comparative ultrastructural work has already indicated that the tommotiids might be a sister group to the Brachiopoda, with Micrina representing the most derived and brachiopod-like bimembrate tommotiid. Here we further develop and strengthen this controversial phylogenetic model with a new reconstruction of Micrina, where the two types of sclerites--mitral and sellate--belong to a near bilaterally symmetrical bivalved sessile organism. This new scleritome configuration was tested by recreating an articulated bivalved Micrina from isolated mitral and sellate sclerites; both sclerites have muscles that would have enabled movement of the sclerites. The mitral and sellate sclerites of Micrina are considered to be homologous with the ventral and dorsal valves, respectively, of organophosphatic linguliform brachiopods, indicating that a simple type of filter-feeding within an enclosed bivalved shell had started to evolve in derived tannuolinids. The new reconstruction also indicates that the phylogenetic range of 'bivalved', sessile lophophorates is larger than previously suspected.

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