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Burgess Shale
Teacher Contributed

Connecting The Pieces

Topic

Cambrian Fauna

Why It Matters

Soft Bodies Aren't All Bad

The Burgess Shale located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada is considered by many to be the most important fossil bed yet found. This fossil bed is known not only for the complexity and diversity of the organisms preserved but also for the preservation of soft body parts like organs and even whole organ systems. The beds are also over 500 million years old and represent an incredible resource to scientists seeking to understand life during the Cambrian Era and how it compares to life today. Watch the following video to take a look and these incredible fossil beds.

Here you can see someone who has actually worked at the fossil bed talk about the significance of the Burgess Shale and what it was like to work there

Here you can see some of the actual fossils themselves (and a few Japanese models)

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Use the below resources to answer the following questions

  1. What does Lagerstätten mean?
  2. What physical conditions lead to optimal fossilization?
  3. What latitude was “North America” located at when the Burgess Shale was deposited?
  4. How does the preservation of soft body parts increase scientists knowledge of the organism that made the fossils? Explain your answer as fully as possible.
  5. What kinds of information can scientists get from soft body parts that they cannot get from hard body parts?
  6. Do all animals have hard body parts?
  7. How do the organisms in the Burgess Shale compare to organisms in other fossil beds of the same age? Are they the same organisms? Are they different organisms?
  8. What do we learn when we compare fossil organisms from different fossil beds of the same age to organisms from different areas today?

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