Diorama showing organisms preserved in the Burgess Shale


Diorama showing organisms preserved in the Burgess Shale


Diorama; British Columbia--Burgess Shale


The Middle Cambrian-aged Burgess Shale is the most famous fossil deposit on Earth. It is located near the town of Field in Yoho National Park, southeastern British Columbia, western Canada. The deposit is famous for its spectacular soft-bodied preservation - the organisms have had their appendages & internal organs preserved. Many tens of thousands of fossils have been collected from the Burgess Shale Formation over the last century. Including known, but unnamed species, and excluding known or demonstrable junior synonyms, the Burgess Shale biota totals at least ~280 species.

Many claim that Charles Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale Lagerstätte (as soft-bodied fossil deposits are called by paleontologists) in 1909. However, it was actually discovered in 1886 or 1888 by Richard McConnell, based on anomalocarid appendage material from Mt. Stephen, in the Campsite Cliff Member of the Burgess Shale Formation. The main collecting localities have been two quarries (Walcott Quarry & Raymond Quarry) on the western side of the ridge connecting Mt. Field and Wapta Mountain a little north-northeast of Field. Numerous other smaller localities have been identified in the same area & for many, many kilometers to the south. Collecting at the Burgess Shale was most intense in 1910-1917 (Charles Walcott), 1925-1930 (Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology), 1966-1967 (Geological Survey of Canada), and 1975-2000s (Royal Ontario Museum).

Shown above is a diorama - a model-based reconstruction of the Burgess Shale. This is a public exhibit at the Nebraska State Museum of Natural History in Lincoln, Nebraska.


St. John, James


Nebraska State Museum of Natural History in Lincoln, Nebraska




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St. John, James, “Diorama showing organisms preserved in the Burgess Shale,” SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, accessed December 2, 2022, https://scrcexhibits.omeka.net/items/show/779.


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