The oral cone of Anomalocaris is not a classic ‘‘peytoia’’
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The Cambro-Ordovician anomalocaridids are large ecdysozoans commonly regarded as ancestors of the arthropods and apex predators. Predation is indicated partly by the presence of an unusual “peytoia”-type oral cone, which is a tetraradial outer ring of 32 plates, four of which are enlarged and in perpendicular arrangement. This oral cone morphology was considered a highly consistent and defining characteristic of well-known Burgess Shale taxa. It is here shown that Anomalocaris has a different oral cone, with only three large plates and a variable number of smaller and medium plates. Its functional morphology suggests that suction, rather than biting, was used for food ingestion, and that anomalocaridids in general employed a range of different scavenging and predatory feeding strategies. Removing anomalocaridids from the position of highly specialized trilobite predators forces a reconsideration of the ecological structure of the earliest marine animal communities in the Cambrian.