Wildlife exploded in diversity and form during the Cambrian period about 500 million years ago. An international team of paleontologists have discovered an early Cambrian fossil site in China – Qingjiang biota – containing a variety of units, more than half of which are previously unspecified. The 518 million-year-old fossil side rivals previously described Cambrian sites, such as the Burgess Shale of British Columbia and Chengjiang fossil site in China's Yunnan province, and should help to illuminate biological innovation and diversification in the Cambrian period.
Just over 500 million years ago, the early wildlife on Earth exploded into diversity and form into an evolutionary event that would introduce the first branches of most large animal phyla to the animal's tree – the Cambrian explosion.
Much of what is known about the Cambrian explosion has been learned from the fossil plate in places where the geological echoes of this early life have been preserved.
Perhaps no other collections have so far been more important to our understanding of the Cambrian explosion than the Burgess Shale and Chengjiang sites – both of which contain large and diverse collections of well-preserved fossils, including soft organs, which rarely make it to the fossil record.
The discovery of the Qingjiang site – the new Burgess Shale type Lagerstätte (a geologist's designation for the disposal of extraordinarily well-preserved fossils) – was made by Northwest University's Dr. Don Ging Fu and colleagues from Guizhou University, Northwest University and Pomona College almost accidentally.
The paleontologists worked in the mountains and came down to the banks of the Danshui River, located in Hubei Province, as they noticed some stones had an odd pin-striped pattern – a tally of signs of mud deposited quickly by old storms similar to those found in the famous Chengjiang site.
In addition to the high taxonomic diversity, Qingjiang fossils are characterized by almost untouched preservation of soft organs – including juvenile or larval forms, arthropods and worm collars and jellyfish – and such soft tissues are like eyes, gills, and intestines.
Over 4,000 samples have already been collected, with 101 species identified – 53 of these species are new to science and the name has yet to be assigned.
"This view enriches our view of the early animal world and gives us truly remarkable views on the simplest animals," said team member Professor Robert Gaines of Pomona College.
"One of the most incredible things about this discovery is the pristine state of many of these tests – fossils that have not been significantly affected by time effects, and in them you can clearly see soft tissue such as eyes, tentacles, and slurry ls. . "
" The discovery promises to shed light on the development of Cambrian ecosystems across space and time. Nowhere does a more pristine fossil record of early Cambrian life and such a multitude of organisms – and that's just The beginning. "
A paper reporting this discovery is published in the journal Science . Dongjing Fu et al. . 2019. Qingjiang biota – A Burgess Shale-type fossil stockpile from the early Cambrian in South China. 363 (6433): 1338-1342; doi: 10.1126 / science.aau8800