The Archaeocyatha are an extinct group of bottom-dwelling organisms, most of which inhabited warm shallow seas during the Lower and Middle Cambrian. They are represented in the fossil record only by their complex conical to discoidal skeletons of calcium carbonate, which range from a few mm to 60 cm in diameter, with most averaging 10–20 mm. Archaeocyatha have been positively identified in collections from all continents and subcontinents except South America.
The biologic or systematic position of the archaeocyathids has always been unclear and highly debated by paleontologists. They have at various times been identified as protozoans, sponges, calcareous algae, or coelenterates. Most workers have considered them to be either representative of a distinct phylum or a major subdivision of the phylum Porifera. French and Soviet paleontologists who have been involved in this problem recently have concluded that the Archaeocyatha are an independent phylum of multicellular...
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