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What Makes The Burgess Shale So Remarkable?

Picture this: it's the Cambrian period. There are all sorts of strange looking creatures swimming and crawling around the ocean floor...

Fossil mountain

Photo: Danny Nicholson (Flickr)

Home of the Burgess Shale, one of the world's most significant fossil discoveries.

Picture this: it’s the Cambrian period. There are all sorts of strange looking creatures swimming and crawling around the ocean floor. They’re right beside the bottom of a big underwater cliff.

Burgess Shale

A worm with a spiky head and a tooth lined mouth gobbles up a shellfish, and before it can finish digesting its meal, BAM, a huge mudslide buries it. Now, fast forward to the present: a team of paleontologists is working in the Canadian Rockies at a site called the “Burgess Shale.” They unearth the worm’s fossilized remains, dinner and all!

What Makes The Burgess Shale So Remarkable?

It contains some of the first complex animals to be found anywhere, and the underwater mudslide buried organisms so quickly and completely that it even preserved their soft tissue. This means that we have detailed fossil records of an incredible range of species. This allows scientists to paint a much more vivid picture of what Cambrian life might have been like.

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