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Gueriau et al., 2023

Gilsonicaris from the Lower Devonian Hunsrück slate is a eunicidan annelid and not the oldest crown anostracan crustacean

Gueriau, P., Parry, L. A., Rabet, N.
AjakiriBiology Letters
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LitsentsCC BY 4.0


The Lower Devonian (Lower Emsian, −400 Myr) roof slates of the Hunsrück in southeastern Germany have delivered a highly diverse and exceptionally preserved marine fauna that provides a unique snapshot into the anatomy and ecology of a wide range of Palaeozoic animals. Several of the described taxa, however, remain enigmatic in their affinity, at least until new pyritized features hidden under the surface of the slate are revealed using X-ray radiography or micro-computed tomography (µCT). Here, we redescribe such an enigmatic fossil, the putative anostracan crustacean Gilsonicaris rhenanus Van Straelen, 1943. Using µCT scanning, we unveil unprecedented details of its anatomy, including a ventral oral opening and four pairs of recalcitrant jaw elements. These jaws are morphologically consistent with the scolecodonts of eunicidan polychaetes, which along with the gross anatomy of the body and head unambiguously identifies G. rhenanus as a polychaete rather than an arthropod. While this discovery firmly discards the Early Devonian record of crown anostracans in the fossil record, it adds a new record of eunicidan soft tissues, which are surprisingly rare considering the abundant microfossil record of scolecodonts.

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