- The Paleontological Society
The discovery of a new naraoiid nektaspid in the Upper Silurian (Pridolian) of southeastern Ontario significantly extends the range of this unusual group. Nektaspids are nonmineralized arthropods typical of Early and Middle Cambrian soft-bottom communities, but were thought to have become extinct in the Late Ordovician. The unique holotype specimen of Naraoia bertiensis n. sp. comes from a Konservat–Lagerstätte deposit renowned for its eurypterid fauna (the Williamsville Member of the Bertie Formation). Naraoia bertiensis lacks thoracic segments and is morphologically similar to Naraoia compacta from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, save for the presence of a long ventral cephalic doublure and a subtly pointed posterior shield. To examine the phylogenetic relationships of the new naraoiid, we coded characters of the holotype specimen and of nine previously described nektaspids. The results confirm a sister taxon relationship between Naraoia compacta and Naraoia bertiensis and the monophyly of nektaspid forms lacking thoracic segments (family Naraoiidae). This latter group may have arisen from an ancestral segment-bearing form through heterochronic loss of thoracic segments early in the Cambrian. The disjunct occurrence of a naraoiid nektaspid in the Late Silurian resembles the reappearance of other “Lazarus taxa” that were thought to have been eliminated during mass extinction events. The naraoiid lineage survived the Late Ordovician biotic crisis, but in this case the “Lazarus effect” seems likely to be taphonomic in origin.