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Temporal range: 535–520 Ma
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Olfactores
Genus: Haikouella
Type species
Haikouella lanceolata
Chen, Huang & Li[1]
Other Species
  • H. jianshanensis

Haikouella is a probable chordate from the Lower Cambrian Maotianshan shales of Chengjiang County in Yunnan Province, China.

It is similar to the form Yunnanozoon,[2] which is possibly a hemichordate.[3] Still, there are anatomical differences from Yunnanozoon, including a larger stomach and smaller (0.1 mm) pharyngeal teeth. Haikouella does not have bones or a movable jaw, but it otherwise resembles vertebrates. Almost certain fish Haikouichthys and Myllokunmingia have been found in the same beds. Suspected hemichordates are also known from these deposits as well as from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia. Other than possible fish scales/plates from the Upper Cambrian of Wyoming, these Chinese fish-like chordates are one of the only known pre-Ordovician craniates.

Haikouella lanceolata

Haikouella is known from 305 specimens mostly from a single bed in the Maotianshan shales of Yunnan province. The animal is 20 to 30 mm (40 mm max) in length and has a head, gills, brain, notochord, well developed musculature, heart and circulatory system. It has a bent caudal projection of the notochord that might be a primitive tail fin. It might have a pair of lateral eyes. Very small (0.1 mm) structures that are probably pharyngeal teeth are present in the body cavity. A few specimens display dorsal and ventral fins.

There are two known species, H. lanceolata (Chen, Huang, Lii), the type species, and H. jianshanensis.[4]


  1. ^ Chen, J.-Y.; Huang, D.-Y.; Li, C.-W. (1999). "An early Cambrian craniate-like chordate". Nature 402 (6761): 518–522. doi:10.1038/990080. 
  2. ^ Chen, J.-Y. (2009). "The sudden appearance of diverse animal body plansduring the Cambrian explosion". The International journal of developmental biology 53 (5–6): 733–751. doi:10.1387/ijdb.072513cj. PMID 19557680. 
  3. ^ Shu, D.; X. Zhang; L. Chin (4 April 1996). "Reinterpretation of Yunnanozoon as the earliest known hemichordate". Nature 380 (6573): 428–430. doi:10.1038/380428a0.  Abstract
  4. ^ Shu, D.; Conway Morris, S.; Zhang, Z. F.; Liu, J. N.; Han, J.; Chen, L.; Zhang, X. L.; Yasui, K.; Li, Y.; et al. (2003). "A new species of Yunnanozoan with implications for deuterostome evolution". Science 299 (5611): 1380–1384. doi:10.1126/science.1079846. PMID 12610301. 

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