Hallucigenia fossil from the Burgess Shale - ROM2007_9581_2

Burgess Shale fossil, Hallucigenia sparsa

Hallucigenia fossil from the Burgess Shale

Geography: Canada, British Columbia: Yoho National Park, Greater Phyllopod Bed, Walcott Quarry Shale Member on Fossil Ridge, Burgess Shale Formation
Date: 1993
    • Attributes
    • Objects
    • Taxonomy
    • Kingdom: Animalia
    • Phylum: Onychophora
    • Class: Xenusia
    • Order: Scleronychophora
    • Genus: Hallucigenia
    • SpecificEpithet: sparsa
Object number: 61143
Not on view
DescriptionHallucigenia was a worm-like animal that lived during the Early to Middle Cambrian period, around 515 to 505 million years ago. It had 7 pairs of long slender spines along its back which may have been used for defense against predators. It had at least as many pairs of limbs which terminated in small claws. This animal was originally described in an inverted position, as the protective spines were thought to be the legs on “stalks”, while a series of simple tentacles ran along its back. With such a unique morphology, some scientists thought it was a member of an extinct phylum. It was only after the discovery of similar fossils in China, and the detection (through mechanical preparation) of Burgess Shale Hallucigenia’s second leg row that the morphology and affinity of this animal became clearer. The position of the head is however still debated. Hallucigenia belongs to a group known as the onychophorans (worms with legs) and these animals are represented today by velvet worms such as Peripatus. Modern onychophorans are strictly adapted to land habitats but like all Burgess Shale animals, Hallucigenia lived in the sea.
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