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The Burgess Shale

December 20, 2017

Herpetogaster collinsi – A creeping organism with tentacles and a long stalk

511 million years ago – give or take a few million years – during the Middle Cambrian era, the earth was populated by some very strange creatures. Most of them were soft-bodied creatures like jellies, sponges, worms and other invertebrates. Such animals without hard parts rarely fossilize, and the Burgess Shale, a site high on a mountain ridge in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada, is the only place in the world where their fossils are found.

Hallucigenia sparsa – A prickly worm that turns out to have “legs”

Discovered in 1909 by paleontologist Charles Walcott, they were initially, and erroneously, categorized into known taxonomic groups. Fifty years later, paleontologist Simon Conway Morris revisited the area and determined that many were weird, improbable, different. The Royal Ontario Museum currently has a collection of 150,000 specimens from the Burgess Shale, and you can tour a selection of the collection on-line, viewing photographs of the fossils and short animated films of what scientists imagine their behavior may have been like.

Opabinia regalis – A primitive arthropod with five eyes and a long “nozzle” with claws

The three pictures included here are ‘screen shots’ from animated videos. The website has over 120 sample fossils. I didn’t look at all of them, but most of the ones I viewed had video animations of the animals in action. You’ll probably have to load Adobe Flash Player (a perfectly safe one-click action, supplied by the site) to run the videos.  [Chuck Almdale]


One Comment
  1. ethanski permalink
    December 21, 2017 6:17 am

    Gracias Great info about Burgess. (Name from ??)

    Happy 😃 happy Merry merry And jolly jolly.

    Sent from my iPhone: No puppies or trees were harmed by this e-mail……. ….have a marvelous day!



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