Sunday, September 4, 2011


Scolecofurca was an odd genus of stem group priapulid worm. It is known from only one specimen from the Burgess Shale.

Scolecofurca rara, its full name, can be translated to "infrequent forked worm." Its genus name, Scolecofurca, is referring to its front end, which looks like a two-pronged fork. The species name, rara, refers to the fact that the species is very rare.

Simon Conway Morris described Scolecofurca from a single specimen in 1977.

Click image to zoom in. [Source: Royal Ontario Museum Fossil Gallery]

Scolecofurca was about 9 cm long and probably burrowed close to the surface of the sediment.

It was very difficult for me to find information on this animal so I could not write very much or find more than one image. I decided to try to reconstruct Scolecofurca myself. My first drawing shows what it would look like if it had long tentacles to entangle prey and then eat it. My second drawing shows what Scolecofurca would look like if it had short, hard, jaw-like tentacles which would crush prey. But these are just my hypotheses based on the fossil.

My interpretations of Scolecofurca with long tentacles grabbing a hyolith.
© Life Before the Dinosaurs 2011

My interpretations of Scolecofurca with short spines.
© Life Before the Dinosaurs 2011



  1. You ought to include your own illustrations more often, Art.

  2. It's really cool that you're developing your own reconstructions of these fossils!

  3. I'm glad that you like my own reconstructions of pre-dinosaur life!

  4. We have a tiny marine worm that looks like your first drawing. That's all it is, a tube buried in the sand, and two long tentacles that wave around in the water. They seem to do quite well for themselves; there are millions of them in our local beaches.

    Here's a video of one of them.

    So if your first drawing was correct, it shows a successful design that has possibly persisted to the present day!

    I am loving this whole series, and I've learned something from it. We talk of the great number of fossils found, but it doesn't sink in until we start seeing the variety, one organism at a time. You have done that for me. Thank you!