Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Thaumaptilon (thaw-muh-TIL-on) is a Cambrian sea pen-like animal from the Burgess Shale. Its name means "wonderful soft feather." Even though Thaumaptilon was leaf-life, it was not a plant.

Thaumaptilon had a holdfast that appears to not have had an anchor-like part at the bottom, so it could have used its holdfast to move across the sea floor and attach itself to different locations.

Thaumaptilon had small spots on one side of its body which could have been zooids. If these were zooids, they could have been part of Thaumaptilon or a different species of animal. Zooids are tiny animals that make up one colonial animal.

Thaumaptilon could possibly be related to late pre-Cambrian Ediacaran feather-like animals, but not everybody agrees on that.


  1. When I see an animal shaped like this, I have to think it was probably a filter-feeder. But who knows, maybe it used those rib-like spines to swim in open water or crawl along the substrate! What do you think?

  2. Hi, Art,
    I think you might like this article: Fish inside an amphibian inside a shark

    It's the Permian, 'way after your time, but still interesting.

  3. @Weeta: I think that should be called a sharkphibish-- you know, like a turducken.

    And Thaumoptilon is lovely. I love the etymology of its name, too.