Echinoderms are unique among animal phyla in having a pentaradial body plan, and their fossil record provides critical data on how this novel organization came about by revealing intermediate stages. Here, we report a spiral-plated animal from the early Cambrian of Morocco that is the most primitive pentaradial echinoderm yet discovered. It is intermediate between helicoplacoids (a bizarre group of spiral-bodied echinoderms) and crown-group pentaradiate echinoderms. By filling an important gap, this fossil reveals the common pattern that underpins the body plans of the two major echinoderm clades (pelmatozoans and eleutherozoans), showing that differential growth played an important role in their divergence. It also adds to the striking disparity of novel body plans appearing in the Cambrian explosion.
- Received May 13, 2013.
- Accepted June 4, 2013.
- © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.