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Department of Paleobiology

Marrella splendens (a primitive arthropod)


Marrella, called the "lace crab" by Walcott, is the most abundant of all Burgess Shale animals. Over 15,000 individual specimens have been collected from the Walcott Quarry. The strange head shield had two pairs of large spines curving back over the body. Two pairs of antennae project forward and the body consists of a large number of segments bearing identically shaped limbs. The fossil specimens range in size from 1/10th to 3/4th inches. Marrella presumably fed on small animals and organic particles as it moved over the surface of the sediment. It is a primitive type of arthropod that could have given rise to any of the three great aquatic arthropod groups - crustaceans (like shrimp, crab, lobster, and believe it or not - barnacles!); chelicerates (like scorpions and spiders); or trilobites.

  • Marrella

Marrella splendens (marr-ELL-ah SPLEN-denz). Named by Walcott to recognize J. E. Marr of Cambridge University, England for his notable work in geology and paleontology.

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