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Liu, Yu; Haug, Joachim T.; Haug, Carolin; Briggs, Derek E. G. and Hou, Xianguang (2014): A 520 million-year-old chelicerate larva. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 5, 4440 [PDF, 1MB]

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An important survival strategy for animal species is the so-called niche differentiation between larva and adult. Different developmental stages of the same animal occupy different ecological niches to avoid competing for food or other essential resources. Here, we describe an exceptionally preserved larval stage of the short great appendage (SGA) arthropod (megacheiran) Leanchoilia illecebrosa from the early Cambrian Chengjiang biota of China. The larval specimen preserves fine details of the main feeding limb, the SGA, which are unknown in the adult of the same species. This discovery demonstrates that niche differentiation during ontogeny was developed in this species of megacheiran-a group of fossil arthropods that has been considered to be early representatives of Chelicerata, which includes horseshoe crabs and arachnids. Hence, this type of niche differentiation, which is common today, originated from the early Cambrian.

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