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Title: The Early Paleozoic Fauna:

The Early Paleozoic Fauna The significance of
the Burgess Shale
EPSC233 Earth Life History (Fall 2002)
Recommended reading STANLEY Earth System
History Chapter 13, pp. 345-354.
Keywordsphyla (arthropods, brachiopods,
echinoderms, mollusks), reef formers
(archeocyathids), deposit feeders (trilobites,
mollusks), filter feeder (eocrinoids, crinoids,
brachiopods, mollusks), predators (cephalopods).
  • Wednesday October 2nd (next week)
  • Next Wednesday afternoon, at 1h30, the
    Sedimentary Geology class will be taking a field
    trip to see the limestone exposures at the Laval
    Nature Centre (St Vincent de Paul Quarry).
  • There will be a few extra seats in the
  • vans. If you are interested in joining them,
    contact Mairi Best at
  • - This outing lasts the entire afternoon. If 6
    students (or more) wish to go, we will cancel the
    lecture and I will accompany you.

In Namibia and Siberia, the Precambrian-Cambrian
boundary can be dated isotopically. Many other
localities lie below or above the boundary or
have big gaps in the rock record.
Where igneous rocks are not available,
chemo-stratigraphy is being used as a correlation
tool. This section is from Death Valley.
Chemostratigraphy Comparing Death Valley (AZ,
U.S.) and Mackenzie Mountains (Canada) Is this a
reliable correlation tool? Are there gaps in the
Drift of continents during the Cambrian 600, 540
and 525 million years ago.
A proto-Atlantic called Iapetus is created
along east coast of N. America.
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Most Cambrian sandstones are poor in fossils.
As sea level rose worldwide, continental
shelves were flooded. Vast areas on the
continental margins became hospitable to shelly
marine faunas. Cambrian sandstones grade upward
to shallow-water limestones. These limestones
rarely contain stromatolites, unlike Precambrian
limestones. They contain the remains of a diverse
shallow-water community of animals and algae.
View of the Walcott Quarry, in the Burgess Shale.
Walcott, from the Smithsonian Institute started
quarrying here in 1909. He sent about 65,000
specimens to the Smithsonian.
Named UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. 505
Mud accumulated (and became shale) atthe edge of
a CaCO3 platform (algal reef).
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  • Paleontologists were groping in the dark until
    complete specimens were found in the Early
    Cambrian strata from Chengjiang, China.
  • - soft bodied fauna, like the Burgess Shale
  • - but 30 million years older
  • - evidence of predation and burrowing
  • - most phyla surviving today are represented
  • but complex fossils of uncertain affinities
  • are also present

Some re-assembly was required...
interpreted as jellyfish
Up to 2 meters long
The Burgess Shale fauna is not unique, other
exceptional fossiliferous deposits of Cambrian
age have been found (Emu Bay, Australia
Chengjiang, South China, Orsten, Sweden). All
confirm - the predominance and diversity of
arthropods - the existence of body plans that
seem to have disappeared - some include earliest
The finding of the Chengjiang fauna, 30 million
years older (535 Ma), confirm the diversity of
the early Cambrian fauna.
Burgess Shale fauna is a diverse assemblage of
soft-bodied organisms. Some display body plans
that have no counterparts to this day.
Opabinia five eyes, a clasping limb
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