The Fossils of the Burgess Shale

Front Cover
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994 - Science - 238 pages
1 Review
Since its discovery in 1909 by Charles Doolittle Walcott, then Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rocky Mountains has fascinated both scientists and the public with its plethora of weird wonders - life forms of the past so unfamiliar they cannot easily be assigned to known taxonomic groups. This century's most significant invertebrate fossil discovery, the Burgess Shale provides an unprecedented window into the explosive evolution during the Cambrian period that began about 540 million years ago, one of the most enigmatic episodes in the history of life. This book provides the first comprehensive set of illustrations of the extraordinary life forms revealed in the Burgess Shale. In addition to the more common fossilized hard skeletons, the Burgess Shale preserved the soft parts of these organisms, which provide a key to understanding the early evolution of the major groups of animals that inhabit the earth today. The Fossils of the Burgess Shale shows much remarkable detail - including digestive tracts and other internal organs - of creatures preserved in particles of mud fine enough to penetrate every crack and unevenness. The book begins with the history of exploration and research in the Burgess Shale, the geologic setting and preservation of the fossils, and a discussion of the Cambrian radiation, the period when almost all the major phyla of animals evolved. These introductory chapters are followed by 199 high-quality photographs and line drawings with detailed species accounts that describe important features of each specimen, as well as the ecology and taxonomy of each group. A complete list of all currently accepted species described fromthe Burgess Shale and a comprehensive bibliography follow the illustrations. The Fossil of the Burgess Shale is a compendium of fascinating Cambrian treasures that offer a rare glimpse into the nature of early life on our planet. They have figured prominently in recent evolutionary debates. The National Museum of Natural History, which houses more than 65,000 fossils collected by Walcott from the Burgess Shale, will open a new exhibition of the specimens in 1995.

What people are saying - Write a review

Review: The Fossils of the Burgess Shale

User Review  - Robert Zwilling - Goodreads

Excellent photographs and illustrations of the life found in the Burgess Shale deposits. The commentary is interesting and clearly written so anyone can understand the explanations. It covers a simple ... Read full review

About the author (1994)

Douglas H. Erwin is senior scientist and curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute. He began researching the end-Permian mass extinction in the early 1980s and has traveled many times to China, South Africa, and Europe seeking its causes.

Bibliographic information