The Cambrian World

The Burgess Shale was formed 530 million years ago during the Cambrian period (543-510 million years ago). Conditions in the Cambrian world were much different from those of today. For example, there were only four major continents at that time as opposed to the seven present have now. These included Laurentia, West Eurasia, East Eurasia, and Gondwanaland. It was on Laurentia where the present day North America (and thus the Burgess Shale) was located. In contrast to conditions today all of the continents were also oriented along the equator. In addition oceanographic conditions were quite different from those found today. As a result understanding how the Burgess Shale was formed requires complex analytical techniques.

Marine life was abundant during the Cambrian. Not only had most major invertebrate groups evolved, but numerous new body plans had also appeared. This rapid diversification occurred in concert with the development of skeletons. Although marine life was abundant plants or animals had not as yet colonized the land.

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