Review and images by bmathison1972; edited by Suspsy
Goticaris longispinosa is a tiny, enigmatic arthropod originally described from both immature and adult forms from the Orsten Lagerstätten (Upper Cambrian) of present day Sweden. It was originally described as an early offshoot of the clade Pancrustacea but is now considered stem-group Mandibulata outside of Pancrustacea. Its bizarre morphology will be discussed in detail below as we analyze today’s figure, which was sold as a blind-box figure and encased in a bath bomb by Diamond Company. To my knowledge, this is the only figure of this species other than the game piece made by Oumcraft for Life: The Evolution of Life on Earth.
The holotype of G. longispinosa is an adult, but is not complete. However, adult specimens are estimated to be approximately 2.7 mm long. The figure, while stylized, is approximately 3.5 cm long for a scale of 13:1.
When one first looks at an illustration of Goticaris, it looks like it has a defined head with a backward-projecting crest, a main unsegmented body with four appendages, and a segmented tail ending in a long spine (which is the reason for the species epithet, longispinosa). In actuality, the first two parts are the head, making up around 50% (if not more) of the animal’s body and the anterior portion is simply an exaggerated ‘forehead’ containing the eye! The main eye is a single sessile structure represented by 20-30 facets. The eye is well represented on the figure (but honestly, I didn’t count the number of facets to see how accurate it was; I leave that to the pedants). The holotype specimen is missing the large central eye, so it’s possible the number of facets changes as the animal develops. There are two lateral stalked structures, one on each side of the forehead. In the original description, they were referred to as ‘spherical blisters’ but they are often now thought to be an additional pair of eyes/facets.
The mid-section, which contains the rest of the head, is unsegmented, as it should be. There should be four pairs of jointed appendages. The first pair are uniramous and believed to represent antennae; they are present in the figure. The next three pairs are biramous; on the figure they are accurately biramous, but only two of the three are present! The V-shaped mouth is not present on the figure. The rest of the body is a segmented trunk containing four uniramous limbs and terminating in a long spine. The four pairs of appendages are present, but the first two are not accurately shaped. The first pair should be larger and paddle-like, and the second pair slightly smaller but also paddle-like. Overall, given the size of the figure, the only major sculptural errors are one missing pair of appendages on the head and the wrong shape for the first two (especially the first) pairs of appendages on the trunk.
We have no idea what color Goticaris was (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least partially translucent), but the figure is a medical-scrub green with the eyes and lateral blisters an almost fluorescent yellow.
This figure is small and stylized but is a must for collectors of interesting taxa. I am not sure which is easier to acquire, this one or the Life game piece (I have never invested in the latter, so I am not sure what is needed to purchase them). The Life model is more accurate, however, based on our current understanding of the critter. Because today’s figure is a blind-box toy encased within a bath bomb, it might be challenging to acquire and getting one second hand on eBay or Japanese auction sites might be the best way. Luckily, a handful of us went in on purchasing these to increase our chances of getting what we wanted (and my thanks to the other participants, as well as Brett and Wes, for helping make it happen).