Terrestrial invertebrates in the Rhynie chert ecosystem

Jason A. Dunlop, Russell J. Garwood

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    The Early Devonian Rhynie and Windyfield cherts remain a key locality for understanding early life and ecology on land. They host the oldest unequivocal nematode worm (Nematoda), which may also offer the earliest evidence for herbivory via plant parasitism. The trigonotarbids (Arachnida: Trigonotarbida) preserve the oldest book lungs and were probably predators that practiced liquid feeding. The oldest mites (Arachnida: Acariformes) are represented by taxa which include mycophages and predators on nematodes today. The earliest harvestman (Arachnida: Opiliones) includes the first preserved tracheae, and male and female genitalia. Myriapods are represented by a scutigeromorph centipede (Chilopoda: Scutigeromorpha), probably a cursorial predator on the substrate, and a putative millipede (Diplopoda). The oldest springtails (Hexapoda: Collembola) were probably mycophages, and another hexapod of uncertain affinities preserves a gut infill of phytodebris. The first true insects (Hexapoda: Insecta) are represented by a species known from chewing (non-carnivorous?) mandibles. Coprolites also provide insights into diet, and we challenge previous assumptions that several taxa were spore-feeders. Rhynie appears preserve a largely intact community of terrestrial animals, although some expected groups are absent. The known fossils are (ecologically) consistent with at least part of the fauna found around modern Icelandic hot springs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20160493
    Number of pages11
    JournalRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
    Issue number1739
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2017


    • Rhynie chert
    • Devonian
    • Nematoda
    • Arachnida
    • Hexapoda


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