Fossil Velvet Worms in Baltic and Dominican Amber: Onychophoran Evolution and Biogeography

Science  06 Sep 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5280, pp. 1370-1371
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5280.1370


Velvet worms identified in Baltic and Dominican amber demonstrate that terrestrial onychophorans were present in the early Tertiary. Characters of the amber fossils are similar to those of the Cambrian Aysheaia and the Pennsylvanian Helenodora, which suggests that these Paleozoic lobopods are ancestral to extant velvet worms. The presence of slime secretions in the Dominican amber fossil shows that the slime gland-pore complex had developed by the mid-Tertiary and could have been an adaptation to terrestrial life. The Baltic amber fossil shows that the range for this now predominately gondwanan group was expanded in the Tertiary.