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Type: Journal article
Title: A new vetulicolian from Australia and its bearing on the chordate affinities of an enigmatic Cambrian group
Author: Garcia-Bellido, D.
Lee, M.
Edgecombe, G.
Jago, J.
Gehling, J.
Paterson, J.
Citation: BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2014; 14(1):214-1-214-13
Publisher: BioMed Central
Issue Date: 2014
ISSN: 1471-2148
Statement of
Diego C García-Bellido, Michael S Y Lee, Gregory D Edgecombe, James B Jago, James G Gehling, and John R Paterson
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Vetulicolians are one of the most problematic and controversial Cambrian fossil groups, having been considered as arthropods, chordates, kinorhynchs, or their own phylum. Mounting evidence suggests that vetulicolians are deuterostomes, but affinities to crown-group phyla are unresolved. RESULTS: A new vetulicolian from the Emu Bay Shale Konservat-Lagerstätte, South Australia, Nesonektris aldridgei gen. et sp. nov., preserves an axial, rod-like structure in the posterior body region that resembles a notochord in its morphology and taphonomy, with notable similarity to early decay stages of the notochord of extant cephalochordates and vertebrates. Some of its features are also consistent with other structures, such as a gut or a coelomic cavity. CONCLUSIONS: Phylogenetic analyses resolve a monophyletic Vetulicolia as sister-group to tunicates (Urochordata) within crown Chordata, and this holds even if they are scored as unknown for all notochord characters. The hypothesis that the free-swimming vetulicolians are the nearest relatives of tunicates suggests that a perpetual free-living life cycle was primitive for tunicates. Characters of the common ancestor of Vetulicolia + Tunicata include distinct anterior and posterior body regions - the former being non-fusiform and used for filter feeding and the latter originally segmented - plus a terminal mouth, absence of pharyngeal bars, the notochord restricted to the posterior body region, and the gut extending to the end of the tail.
Keywords: Gills
Biological Evolution
Rights: © 2014 Garcia-Bellido et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
DOI: 10.1186/s12862-014-0214-z
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