Details of the Priapulid Paisley

For a paisley print to look really nice, it is helpful to have smaller elements to intersperse between the bigger pieces. For my Priapulid Paisley Print, I wanted to feature more than just the priapulid worms themselves. Fortunately, while Priapulids are fundamentally very boteh-shaped, so are their burrows.

Treptichnus is a trace fossil we now know was made by priapulid worms as they looked for food. It marks the end of the Ediacaran and the beginning of the Cambrian, because it's one of the first signs that animals could actually dig. There are several different classic shapes, but my favorite are the fan shaped ones for sure.

Treptichnus trace fossils

Images of Treptichnus fossils on the left; my interpretations on the right. 

 In fact, I loved the Treptichnus pattern so much I actually went ahead and made it into a solo pattern, which is one of my favorites now.

Treptichnus pattern on a sweatshirt

While these cool fossils do a great job of filling space, I wanted to add one more element. See, it's not just the whole worms that get fossilized - sometimes, all you find are their teeth. Well, their pharyngeal teeth  - or the teeth they have on the inside of their throats. These are pretty distinct (they look like creepy little goblin hands) and actually are used to help the priapulid move. The worm turns its throat inside out like sleeve and pushes that forward. The teeth on the throat grip the ground, and then the worm pulls itself forward and outside-out again. Inside-in.

Pharyngeal teeth

Actual image of a Pharyngeal tooth on the left, and my cutesy Simpson-hand version on the right.


Cute little nightmare elements, eh? My favorite!



  • Vannier, Jean, et al. "Priapulid worms: pioneer horizontal burrowers at the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary." Geology 38.8 (2010): 711-714.
  • Zhang, Xi-Guang, Xian-Guang Hou, and J. A. N. Bergstrom. "Early Cambrian priapulid worms buried with their lined burrows." Geological Magazine 143.5 (2006): 743-748.
  • Kesidis, Giannis, et al. "Caught in the act: priapulid burrowers in early Cambrian substrates." Proceedings of the Royal Society B 286.1894 (2019): 20182505.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published