Associated in structure with [Bryozoans] is the ancient race of brachiopods (Brachiopoda, "arm-footed") or lamp shells, although they much more nearly resemble bivalved mollusks, whence, by the way, comes the name of the phylum to which both belong—Molluscoida, which means "mollusklike."

The race of the brachiopods goes back to the beginning of the geologic record. A few living examples are still found in the ocean, some of which, as lingula, have changed so little that they can hardly be told from the most ancient fossils of their family. Certain species are dredged abundantly on both coasts of the Atlantic from water a few fathoms deep where the bottom is rocky. They look like small mussels at first sight, but on examination show a vast difference in structure. The bivalve shells, instead of growing on the right and left sides of the animal, as in bivalve mollusks, cover its back and front, and the head parts are at the gape of the valves. At the hinge end of the shell the lower valve overlaps (it is the shape of this lower shell, like that of an old Roman lamp, which suggests their common name, "lamp shells") and the hinder end of the body projects as a stalk, by which the animal fastens itself to the rock. "The mouth in the brachiopods is flanked by two curiously coiled and feathered arms which lie within the cavity between the shells, and are supported by skeletal rods attached to the upper shell. These serve as gills, and also to capture the minute creatures upon which the brachiopod feeds."

Owing to their great abundance, world-wide distribution, and remote antiquity, as well as their excellent state of preservation, brachiopods occupy a very conspicuous rank among extinct invertebrates, and furnish us besides with a large number of important index fossils. They are to be found in immense variety from the Cambrian to the present, most numerously in formations from Silurian to Permian times.