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    Primitive cnidarians are crucial for elucidating the early evolution of metazoan body plans and life histories in the late Neoproterozoic and Palaeozoic. The highest complexity of both evolutionary aspects within cnidarians is found in extant hydrozoans. Many colonial hydrozoans coated with chitinous exoskeletons have the potential to form fossils; however, only a few fossils possibly representing hydroids have been reported, which still require scrutiny. Here, we present an exceptionally well-preserved hydroid found in the Upper Cambrian Fengshan Formation in northern China. It was originally interpreted as a problematic graptolite with an uncertain systematic position. Based on three characteristic morphological traits shared with extant hydroids (with paired hydrothecae, regular hydrocaulus internodes and special intrathecal origin pattern of hydrocladium), we propose this fossil hydroid as a new genus, Palaeodiphasia gen. nov., affiliated with the advanced monophyletic hydrozoan clade Macrocolonia typically showing loss of the medusa stage. More Macrocolonia fossils reviewed here indicate that this life strategy of medusa loss has been achieved already as early as the Middle Devonian. The early stratigraphical appearance of such advanced hydroid contrasts with previous molecular hypotheses regarding the timing of medusozoan evolution, and may be indicative for understanding the Ediacaran cnidarian radiation.


    Xikun Song, Bernhard Ruthensteiner, Mingxin Lyu, Xi Liu, Jian Wang, Jian Han. Advanced Cambrian hydroid fossils (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa) extend the medusozoan evolutionary history. Proceedings. Biological sciences. 2021 Feb 10;288(1944):20202939

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    PMID: 33529559

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