Nectocaris 2012

Life restoration of Nectocaris

Nectocaris is a genus of uncertain affinity from the Cambrian Period of Canada, China, and Australia.


Nectocaris has a flattened body with fleshy fins running along each side. The head possessed two stalked eyes, a pair of tentacles, and a funnel that opened up on the underside of the body.[1]


Nectocaris 59660

Fossil specimen of Nectocaris

The classification and taxonomy of Nectocaris is uncertain, and various identities for the genus have been put forth since its discovery, including a cephalopod or a coeloid.[2] There is one species, N. pteryx.


Although Charles Doolittle Walcott had first photographed specimens of Nectocaris in the 1910s, it was not until 1976 that it was described by Simon Conway Morris.[3] The Italian paleontologist Alberto Simonetta interpreted the animal as a primitive chordate, and reconstructed it with a body shape somewhat similar to that of Pikaia.[4] In 2010, Martin Smith and Jean-Bernard Caron reexamined the fossil and found it to be more like that of a primitive cephalopod. This would move the origin of cephalopods back about 20 million years to the Cambrian explosion.[5]


  1. Smith, M. R. (2013). "Nectocaridid ecology, diversity and affinity: early origin of a cephalopod-like body plan". Paleobiology 39 (2): 291–321. doi:10.1666/12029. edit
  2. Runnegar, B. (2011). "Once again: Is Nectocaris pteryx a stem-group cephalopod?". Lethaia 44 (4): 373. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3931.2011.00296.x. edit
  3. Morris, S.C. (1976). " Nectocaris pteryx, a new organism from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte 12: 703–713.
  4. Simonetta, A.M. (1988). "Is Nectocaris pteryx a chordate?". Bollettino di Zoologia 55 (1–2): 63–68. doi:10.1080/11250008809386601.
  5. Smith, M. R.; Caron, J. B. (2010). "Primitive soft-bodied cephalopods from the Cambrian". Nature 465 (7297): 469–472. Bibcode:2010Natur.465..469S. doi:10.1038/nature09068. PMID 20505727. edit