Musculature of an Early Cambrian cycloneuralian animal

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Royal Society


Cycloneuralians are ecdysozoans with a fossil record extending to the Early Cambrian Fortunian Age and represented mostly by cuticular integuments. However, internal anatomies of Fortunian cycloneuralians are virtually unknown, hampering our understanding of their functional morphology and phylogenetic relationships. Here we report the exceptional preservation of cycloneuralian introvert musculature in Fortunian rocks of South China. The musculature consists of an introvert body-wall muscular grid of four circular and 36 radially arranged longitudinal muscle bundles, as well as an introvert circular muscle associated with 19 roughly radially arranged, short retractors. Collectively, these features support at least a scalidophoran affinity, and the absence of muscles associated with a mouth cone and scalids further indicates a priapulan affinity. As in modern scalidophorans, the fossil musculature, and particularly the introvert circular muscle retractors, may have controlled introvert inversion and facilitated locomotion and feeding. This work supports the evolution of scalidophoran-like or priapulan-like introvert musculature in cycloneuralians at the beginning of the Cambrian Period.



introvert musculature, Priapulida, Scalidophora, Cycloneuralia, Cambrian Fortunian, South China