Exceptionally preserved early Cambrian bilaterian developmental stages from Mongolia

Michael Steiner*, Ben Yang, Simon Hohl, Da Li, Philip Donoghue *

*Corresponding author for this work

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

7 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


Fossilized invertebrate embryonic and later developmental stages are rare and restricted largely to the Ediacaran-Cambrian, providing direct insight into development during the emergence of animal bodyplans. Here we report a new assemblage of eggs, embryos and bilaterian post-embryonic developmental stages from the early Cambrian Salanygol Formation of Dzhabkan Microcontinent of Mongolia. The post-embryonic developmental stages of the bilaterian are preserved with cellular fidelity, possessing a series of bilaterally arranged ridges that compare to co-occurring camenellan sclerites in which the initial growth stages retain the cellular morphology of modified juveniles. In this work we identify these fossils as early post-embryonic developmental stages of camenellans, an early clade of stem-brachiopods, known previously only from isolated sclerites. This interpretation corroborates previous reconstructions of camenellan scleritomes with sclerites arranged in medial and peripheral concentric zones. It further supports the conjecture that molluscs and brachiopods are descended from an ancestral vermiform and slug-like bodyplan.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1037 (2021)
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


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