A Cambrian crown annelid reconciles phylogenomics and the fossil record

Hong Chen, Luke A Parry, Jakob Vinther, Dayou Zhai, Xianguang Hou, Xiaoya Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The phylum of annelids is one of the most disparate animal phyla and encompasses ambush predators, suspension feeders and terrestrial earthworms1. The early evolution of annelids remains obscure or controversial2,3, partly owing to discordance between molecular phylogenies and fossils2,4. Annelid fossils from the Cambrian period have morphologies that indicate epibenthic lifestyles, whereas phylogenomics recovers sessile, infaunal and tubicolous taxa as an early diverging grade5. Magelonidae and Oweniidae (Palaeoannelida1) are the sister group of all other annelids but contrast with Cambrian taxa in both lifestyle and gross morphology2,6. Here we describe a new fossil polychaete (bristle worm) from the early Cambrian Canglangpu formation7 that we name Dannychaeta tucolus, which is preserved within delicate, dwelling tubes that were originally organic. The head has a well-defined spade-shaped prostomium with elongated ventrolateral palps. The body has a wide, stout thorax and elongated abdomen with biramous parapodia with parapodial lamellae. This character combination is shared with extant Magelonidae, and phylogenetic analyses recover Dannychaeta within Palaeoannelida. To our knowledge, Dannychaeta is the oldest polychaete that unambiguously belongs to crown annelids, providing a constraint on the tempo of annelid evolution and revealing unrecognized ecological and morphological diversity in ancient annelids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-252
Number of pages4
Early online date11 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Abdomen/anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • China
  • Fossils
  • Head/anatomy & histology
  • Phylogeny
  • Polychaeta/anatomy & histology


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