Much of what we know about the diversification of body plans that happened starting 540-million years ago (commonly known as the Cambrian Explosion) comes from the famous Burgess Shale formation. The original site, located in Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies, was discovered by paleontologist Charles Walcott in 1909. The site has produced an enormous cache of marine animals, so much so that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981.
This week, researchers from Canada's Royal Ontario Museum announced a second Burgess Shale Formation site nearby which is as rich, if not richer, than the 1909 original. In just 15 days, the team collected thousands of beautifully preserved specimens representing more than 50 species, several of which are new to science. The circumstances of their fossilization preserved an unprecedented level of detail, particularly in the elusive soft-tissues that are so often lost to time:
And lest you're taken with these 504-million year old creatures emerging from the rocks, don't forget to look up and take in the scenery:
More on the Burgess Shale from the ROM
The Burgess Shale and Yoho National Park via Parks Canada
Caron JB, Gaines RR, Aria C, Mángano MG, & Streng M (2014). A new phyllopod bed-like assemblage from the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies. Nature communications, 5 PMID: 24513643