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Biol Lett. 2011 Dec 23;7(6):929-32. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0592. Epub 2011 Jul 6.

An Early Cambrian stem polychaete with pygidial cirri.

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Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


The oldest annelid fossils are polychaetes from the Cambrian Period. They are representatives of the annelid stem group and thus vital in any discussion of how we polarize the evolution of the crown group. Here, we describe a fossil polychaete from the Early Cambrian Sirius Passet fauna, Pygocirrus butyricampum gen. et sp. nov., with structures identified as pygidial cirri, which are recorded for the first time from Cambrian annelids. The body is slender and has biramous parapodia with chaetae organized in laterally oriented bundles. The presence of pygidial cirri is one of the characters that hitherto has defined the annelid crown group, which diversified during the Cambrian-Ordovician transition. The newly described fossil shows that this character had already developed within the total group by the Early Cambrian.

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