Friday, March 4, 2022

[Paleontology • 2022] Yorkicystis haefneri • Cambrian Edrioasteroid reveals New Mechanism for Secondary Reduction of the Skeleton in Echinoderms

Yorkicystis haefneri 
Zamora, Rahman, Sumrall, Gibson & Thompson, 2022

Echinoderms are characterized by a distinctive high-magnesium calcite endoskeleton as adults, but elements of this have been drastically reduced in some groups. Herein, we describe a new pentaradial echinoderm, Yorkicystis haefneri n. gen. n. sp., which provides, to our knowledge, the oldest evidence of secondary non-mineralization of the echinoderm skeleton. This material was collected from the Cambrian Kinzers Formation in York (Pennsylvania, USA) and is dated as ca 510 Ma. Detailed morphological observations demonstrate that the ambulacra (i.e. axial region) are composed of flooring and cover plates, but the rest of the body (i.e. extraxial region) is preserved as a dark film and lacks any evidence of skeletal plating. Moreover, X-ray fluorescence analysis reveals that the axial region is elevated in iron. Based on our morphological and chemical data and on taphonomic comparisons with other fossils from the Kinzers Formation, we infer that the axial region was originally calcified, while the extraxial region was non-mineralized. Phylogenetic analyses recover Yorkicystis as an edrioasteroid, indicating that this partial absence of skeleton resulted from a secondary reduction. We hypothesize that skeletal reduction resulted from lack of expression of the skeletogenic gene regulatory network in the extraxial body wall during development. Secondary reduction of the skeleton in Yorkicystis might have allowed for greater flexibility of the body wall.
Keywords: Cambrian, skeleton, development, echinoderms, evolution

Yorkicystis haefneri n. gen. n. sp.

Samuel Zamora, Imran A. Rahman, Colin D. Sumrall, Adam P. Gibson and Jeffrey R. Thompson. 2022. Cambrian Edrioasteroid reveals New Mechanism for Secondary Reduction of the Skeleton in Echinoderms. Proc. R. Soc. B. 289; 20212733. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.2733