any member of a group of brachiopods, or lamp shells, that includes very ancient extinct forms as well as surviving representatives. First known from Cambrian rocks (about 500,000,000 to 570,000,000 years old), they probably originated during Precambrian time. The lingulids are small, inarticulate brachiopods; their shells are unhinged and consist of chitinous (fingernail-like) material. A modern genus, Lingula, is found in normal marine environments but is most common in muddy, brackish water that is poor in oxygen and generally unsuited to most organisms. The genus Lingulella is a fossil form known from the Cambrian and was similar in appearance and structure to the modern Lingula. Lingulepis, a related genus more or less restricted to the Late Cambrian, differs from other lingulids in appearance; it is more teardrop in form. The lingulids are useful fossils for the environmental information that they provide; they are of little use for stratigraphic correlations. The lingulids were an important component of Cambrian brachiopod faunas.
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