Wenlock creatures: Brachiopods

Eospirifer radiatus

The brachiopod shown in the image, Eospirifer, would have attached itself to the reef in an area of relatively quiet water.

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Example of modern brachiopods

Image courtesey of Prof. Lloyd Peck, British Antarctic Survey


What are brachiopods?

Brachiopods are rare today, but were extremely common in the sea in the geological past. They have two shells made of calcite, held together by muscles, which they open when feeding and close for protection. Although they can look similar to bivalves, they are unrelated. Fossil brachiopods have many different shell shapes, which reflect the very different sea bed environments in which they lived.

DietBrachiopods are filter feeders. They draw water through their shells, trapping food using a special net-like organ called a lophophore.

Key facts about Wenlock brachiopods

Reef dwellerSome brachiopods fixed themselves to rocks or firm parts of the Wenlock Reef, others burrowed in the soft sediment around it.

Abundance through geological time

AbundanceBrachiopods were very common from the Cambrian to the Permian, with many groups wiped out by the end-Permian mass extinction. Since then, brachiopods have been much less common, with only a few groups alive today.

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