The Significance of the Burgess Shale

The Burgess Shale has been studied since the early research of Walcott and associates. With recent detailed reanalyses it continues to provide us with exceptional knowledge of a unique interval of geologic history so near the beginning of metazoan life, only 40 million years after the Cambrian explosion. Its unique deposition and preservation provides a much more complete image than is normally available to scientists, of the soft-bodied organisms from such ancient sediments. This fauna possessed unique adaptations related to a host of functions (e.g. feeding structures). Such unique adaptions can be seen in a variety of faunal types including arthropods, brachiopods, chordates, coelenterates, echinoderms,molluscs, worms, and sponges. We particularly see odd configurations in enigmatic creatures such as Anomalocaris (miscellaneous) and Hallucigenia(miscellaneous); none of which belong to known phyla.

The Cambrian explosion seems to have created a wider range of body plans than present today. None of these plans however, were intrinsically more viable than any other. It was luck that resulted in some surviving to become the ancestors of living floras and faunas.

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