...this turns up.

This thing is Siphusauctum gregarium, and is known from over 1000 specimens. It probably looked something like this,

The good news is that it's published in PLoS ONE so you can go check it out for yourselves.

Think it's like something you've seen before? I can see why. But actually, when you get down to the nitty gritty, this thing is very different to anything else, even from the Burgess Shale.

The most that the authors can say is that it is almost certainly an animal, and that it seems to be more complex than sponges and cnidarians (jellyfish and corals).  Other than that, they have erected their own family for these things, but where this slots into the grand scheme of things, we won't be able to tell until we have some other close relatives.

It's the age-old problem; is this genuinely basal or is it a more simplified descendant of more complex organisms? The authors are lucky not to have the problems that a lot of us have; they have plenty of well preserved specimens. The problem is that the little morphology that it does have does not compare very well with anything that we know of at the moment.

Personally, I think there's an aspect here of convergence. There are only so many ways that you can build a stalked organism, and this stalked-ness is overprinting the morphology that would betray it's identity.

If we find more related organisms from the Burgess Shale and the Chejiang, though, it may be necessary to erect a new phylum.


O'Brien LJ , Caron J-B , 2012 A New Stalked Filter-Feeder from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada.PLoS ONE 7(1):e29233.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029233