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Title: The impact of taphonomic data on phylogenetic resolution: Helenodora inopinata (Carboniferous, Mazon Creek Lagerstätte) and the onychophoran stem lineage
Authors: Murdock, D. J. E.
Gabbott, S. E.
Purnell, Mark Andrew
First Published: 22-Jan-2016
Publisher: BioMed Central
Citation: BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2016, 16 : 19
Abstract: Background: The origin of the body plan of modern velvet worms (Onychophora) lies in the extinct lobopodians of the Palaeozoic. Helenodora inopinata, from the Mazon Creek Lagerstätte of Illinois (Francis Creek Shale, Carbondale Formation, Middle Pennsylvanian), has been proposed as an intermediate between the “weird wonders” of the Cambrian seas and modern terrestrial predatory onychophorans. The type material of H. inopinata, however, leaves much of the crucial anatomy unknown. Results: Here we present a redescription of this taxon based on more complete material, including new details of the head and posterior portion of the trunk, informed by the results of experimental decay of extant onychophorans. H. inopinata is indeed best resolved as a stem-onychophoran, but lacks several key features of modern velvet worms including, crucially, those that would suggest a terrestrial mode of life. Conclusions: The presence of H. inopinata in the Carboniferous demonstrates the survival of a Cambrian marine morphotype, and a likely post-Carboniferous origin of crown-Onychophora. Our analysis also demonstrates that taphonomically informed tests of character interpretations have the potential to improve phylogenetic resolution.
DOI Link: 10.1186/s12862-016-0582-7
ISSN: 1471-2148
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © Murdock et al. 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Geology

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