Ediacaran skeletal metazoan interpreted as a lophophorate
Zhuravlev et al
While many skeletal biomineralized genera are described from Ediacaran (635–541 million years ago, Ma) strata, none have been suggested to have an affinity above the Porifera–Cnidaria metazoan grade. Here, we reinterpret the widespread terminal Ediacaran (approx. 550–541 Ma) sessile goblet-shaped Namacalathus as a triploblastic eumetazoan. Namacalathus has a stalked cup with radially symmetrical cross section, multiple lateral lumens and a central opening. We show that the skeleton of Namacalathus is composed of a calcareous foliated ultrastructure displaying regular concordant columnar inflections, with a possible inner organic-rich layer. These features point to an accretionary growth style of the skeleton and an affinity with the Lophotrochozoa, more specifically within the Lophophorata (Brachiopoda and Bryozoa). Additionally, we present evidence for asexual reproduction as expressed by regular budding in a bilateral pattern. The interpretation of Namacalathus as an Ediacaran total group lophophorate is consistent with an early radiation of the Lophophorata, as known early Cambrian representatives were sessile, mostly stalked forms, and in addition, the oldest known calcareous Brachiopoda (early Cambrian Obolellida) and Bryozoa (Ordovician Stenolaemata) possessed foliated ultrastructures.