Attention is drawn to Nielsen's radical body plan concept, here named the 'brachiopod fold hypothesis', under which brachiopods and phoronids are recognized to be transversely folded across the ontogenetic anterior–posterior axis so that, to make useful comparisons with other phyla, these organisms must be conceptually unfolded. Under the hypothesis brachiopod brachial and pedicle shell valves are respectively 'anterior' and 'posterior' rather than 'dorsal' and 'ventral' as traditionally described. The hypothesis makes sense of the symmetry axes of the brachiopod shell, is consistent with various indications from fossil and Recent brachiopods, and gives rise to predicted patterns of axis–determining gene expression that differ from those obtaining under the traditional view of the body plan, whilst the variety of folding movements in different lineages implies that superficially dissimilar morphogenetic folds may be fundamentally homologous. Convergent folding patterns are noted in some other organisms. A previous conjecture that inarticulate linguloid brachiopods were derived from halkieriid–like ancestors is elaborated with proposals that recognize possible functional continuities of coelomic and marginal sclerite functions, and it is noted that an ancestrally facultative fold could have become incorporated by genetic assimilation into the brachiopod developmental program. An experimental approach is outlined to test the possibility that some members of the 'small shelly fauna' may have been members of the halkieriid–like brachiopod stem lineage and it is also suggested that buoyancy modification may have been an important function of mineralization amongst Lower Cambrian floaters and swimmers, since negative buoyancy would facilitate access to the benthic niche
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