Early Cambrian tommotiids are problematic fossil metazoans with external organophosphatic sclerites that have been considered to be basal members of the lophophorate stem group. Tommotiids are almost exclusively known from isolated or rarely fused individual sclerites, which made previous reconstructions of the actual organism highly conjectural. However, the recent discovery of the first articulated specimens of the tommotiid Eccentrotheca revealed a tubular sclerite arrangement (scleritome) that limited the possible life habit to sessile filter feeding and thus further supported a lophophorate affinity. Here, we report the first articulated specimens of a second tommotiid taxon, Paterimitra from the Early Cambrian of the Arrowie Basin, South Australia. Articulated specimens of Paterimitra are composed of two bilaterally symmetrical sclerite types and an unresolved number of small, asymmetrical and irregular crescent-shaped sclerites that attached to the anterior margin of the symmetrical sclerites. Together, the sclerites form an open cone in which the symmetrical sclerites are joined together and form a small posterior opening near the base of the scleritome, while the irregular crescent-shaped sclerites defined a broad anterior opening. The coniform scleritome of Paterimitra is interpreted to have attached to hard substrates via a pedicle that emerged through the small posterior opening (sometimes forming a tube) and was probably a sessile filter feeder. The scleritome of Paterimitra can be derived from the tubular scleritome of Eccentrotheca by modification of basal sclerites and reduction in tube height, and probably represents a more derived member of the brachiopod stem group with the paired symmetrical sclerites possibly homologous to brachiopod valves.
Keywords: Brachiopoda, Tommotiida, Paterimitra, scleritome construction, Early Cambrian, stem groups