Talk:Burgess Shale

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I don't mean to be a narc, but amusing as it is describing a "snout like a vacuum cleaner hose", the tone doesn't sound like an encyclopedia to me. I do really like the line, but does anyone mind if i change it to something less whimsical?Larryisgood (talk) 18:19, 13 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Simon Conway Morris[edit]

re Burgess Onychophora. Conway Morris may be certain that Hallucigenia is an Onychophore. Not everyone agrees. For that matter, not everyone agrees that Aysheaia is an Onychophore although that seems a much more comfortable assignment. Morris is also the guy who originally had Hallucigenia walking around on its spines. Morris may well know more about Lower Cambrian animals than anyone else alive, but that doesn't mean that he is always right. It appears that he possibly sometimes expresses opinions with more confidence than is justified by the data.

Don Kenney

I agree, for what it's worth. Therefore I suggest that Hallucigenia be put into the uncertain list.

Return story an exaggeration?[edit]

From memory, Stephen Jay Gould's book "Bully for Brontosaurus" says that after looking at Walcott's diary, the return story is an exaggeration made by his assistants that Gould got 3rd hand. He actually did it all in one go from 30th Aug-7th September. Can anyone verify this?


I thought that the Burgess Shale was a UNESCO site in its own right, and not merely by inclusion with the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks? --Dante Alighieri | Talk 17:18, Mar 5, 2005 (UTC)

From UNESCO site

The "Burgess Shale" property, which was previously inscribed on the World Heritage List, is part of the "Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks".Qyd(talk)22:11, 9 May 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Guide from the Burgess Shale Geosciences Foundation chiming in here. Burgess was made a World Heritage Site in 1981, and the formation of the 1984 Rocky Mountains WHS (spanning seven provincial and national parks along the border of BC and AB) incorporated the Burgess Shale area. The level of protection awarded the site is the same, or greater, now. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:41, 29 July 2011 (UTC)[reply]


Since there seem to be so many organisms unique to the Burgess shale, how about giving them their own category? Several entries for the species mentioned in the article seem to be in imprecise or inaccurate categories. You could call it something like: "Category:Burgess shale fossils", "Category:Organisms unique to the Burgess shale", or even just "Category:Burgess shale". It would probably go under Category:Extinct animals or Category:Fossils. Or both. Would this be helpful or just dumb? Xastic 02:12, 20 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I'd vote for helpful over dumb. :) --Dante Alighieri | Talk 23:01, 26 January 2006 (UTC)[reply]


I thought this page could really use an image; there were two to choose from, both on pages for organisms found in the Shale. I used the Hallucigenia pic instead of the Anomalocaris pic, as the former is a pic of the actual Shale and the latter is a (very nice) cgi rendition of an Anomalocaris swimming.

I'm still working on my wikilayoutting, so if anyone knows a better way than the one I have the image on the page with, please go ahead and fix it. In other words, I don't like the way it looks but am at a loss to fix it.

And for the record, I think a 'Burgess Shale fossils' category would be helpful. --Andymussell 02:56, 13 March 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I would also like a 'Burgess Shale Fossils" category. I do not see one currently, and I would like to try to help with one. Swilk 22:00, 10 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I started the category. It now has one entry: Hallucigenia. PAR 01:40, 11 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]


I have created articles for the redlinks in the list. Totnesmartin 22:24, 6 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Article outdated, follows Gould too closely[edit]

This article needs a rewrite. It follows far too closely Gould's interpretation in Wonderful Life. Discoveries since 1990 have made this untenable:

  • The Ediacaran biota include a very probable mollusc (Kimberella) and a probable trilobite (Spriggina) and echinoderm (Arkarua)
  • Anomalocaris, Opabinia and Hallucigenia are now regarded as lobopodia and close to the ancestors of arthropods.
  • Wiwaxia and Halkieria are regarded as lophotrochozoa ("super-phylum" that includes molluscs, brachiopods, annelids) and some scientists regard Wiwaxia as a mollusc or very close to molluscs (it had a radula). Odontogriphus is also probably a lophotrochozoan, and may be close to molluscs.
  • A lot of the "wierd wonders" have been found earlier and / or later than the Burgess Shale. Halkieria is very close to Wiwaxia but its fossils range from the very early Cambrian ("small shelly fauna" include many bits of its armor) to mid Cambrian; Anomalocaris and Hallucigenia have been found in the Chenjiang fauna, 10M yers before the Burgess shale. Orthrozanclus' armor is a combination of that of Halkieria and Wiwaxia, and the known Orthrozanclus specimens date from about 505M years ago (quite late Cambrian).

So the "riot of disparity" was far less radical and far longer-lasting than Gould suggested.Philcha 12:06, 22 August 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Which mountain range?[edit]

I'd like to know which mountain range Mount Burgess is in--Monashee, perhaps? That would tell readers more about the geology. A map would be helpful. Monado (talk) 01:20, 20 May 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Article title / structure[edit]

We haven't even started on a catalogue of the Burgess Shale fossils, and it will be a long article when it happens – which it will, see WP:CEX. I suggest a separate article Burgess Shale fossils should cover the fossils, leaving Burgess Shale to handle location, geology, topography, etc. -- Philcha (talk) 17:13, 3 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Would this be sufficiently different to Burgess shale type fauna? Martin (Smith609 – Talk) 19:03, 3 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for drawing my attention to that. Proposal for separate article withdrawn. I've added "Further information: Burgess shale type fauna" at the top in case I forget again. :-ʃ Philcha (talk) 19:40, 3 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Gould v. Morris[edit]

I think there needs to be some significant cleanup and sourcing for the claims that everything Gould said is now regarded as wrong. There is one very poor source for the information. Anyone watching this page have some suggestions on how to handle this? Specifically the passage I have problems with is:

"However, over the ensuing years it became apparent that the diversity was similar to, if not a little lower than, today's; rather than erecting a new phylum for each new and unusual fossil find, researchers now attempt to deduce to which phylum they are most closely related. Gould's work has been criticised for what has been described as a hasty and incomplete analysis, used to support Gould's own ideas, and which has since entered the popular public consciousness."

Tmtoulouse (talk) 23:55, 12 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Not seeing anyone jumping up and down about this I am going to work on rewriting the conflict portion of this article. Tmtoulouse (talk) 06:58, 17 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with your objection to the wording you quoted. However the history of theories about the Cambrian explosion goes back to before Gould's Wonderful Life (1989), and is partly tied up with debates about the pace of evolution, e.g. Punctuated equilibrium – see for example last para of Small shelly fossils #History of discovery.
You might like to check out and perhaps join WP:CEX. This was started after an attempt from winter 2007 to spring 2008 to make Cambrian explosion accurate but intelligible to non-specialists produced an article that was a bit too long. WP:CEX has a "to do" list of articles to be improved so that Cambrian explosion can rely on them for the details and concentrate on the high-level view. -- Philcha (talk) 08:56, 17 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]
Indeed; the discussion you suggest certainly needs writing, but this may not be the most appropriate place. Perhaps a new article, "Significance of the Cambrian explosion", would be most appropriate; then this page as well as Cambrian explosion and Phylum could provide a summary, but the facts and arguments would be constrained to one central article. Martin (Smith609 – Talk) 14:04, 17 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]
I wasn't suggesting Tmtoulouse or anyone else write a mega-essay in Burgess Shale. Copying the last para of Small shelly fossils #History of discovery might do almost all of the job. -- Philcha (talk) 15:21, 17 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]
Do you think we just need to add more about other people involved in the debate (I agree with this)? Or do you think there is an over emphasis on Gould/Morris in the article at the moment (I am not so sure I would agree with this, as to me Gould v. Morris is probably one of the most significant current scientific debates that is in the public consciousness)? Tmtoulouse (talk) 15:25, 17 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]
That could get really complex. We tried to make Cambrian explosion accurate but intellligible, but the result of that was rather long. So WP:CEX was set up to assemble a package of articles that would support each other without any of them getting too long, as recommended by WP:SUMMARY. And the importance of the Burgess Shale fossils to the Cambrian explosion is itself debated – Budd argues that more continous fossil records like the Small shelly fossils may be morte useful.
I'd be inclined to keep it simple for now, by pointing out that debate has been going on since the 1970s. -- Philcha (talk) 23:34, 19 August 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Outline for rewrite[edit]

Initial thoughts (BTW wrap this in a "hide" box if we produce further versions): --Philcha (talk) 23:25, 17 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]

  • Location and topography.
    • Positions, extent & exposures of fossil beds.
    • Geology and sedimentology
    • How the beds were formed
      • Sedimentological aspects (mud flows)
      • Preservational aspects (taphonomy)
      • Controversies: the recent discovery of their oxic status and the 'brine seep' idea
  • History of fossil collecting there
    • Discovery of nearby trilobite beds
    • First discovery of BS by Walcott
    • Re-injection of interest: Whittington & co.
    • ROM collections - Collins onwards
    • Mention UNESCO world heritage status here?
  • Summary of fossils - make representative, don't over-emphasise "weird wonders", point out that there are oddities at various taxonomic levels. These might be worth highlighting:
    • Marrella - set Whittington wondering; clearly an arthropod, but pattern of segments and appendages in head like nothing known
    • Opabinia - Gould's poster child in Wonderful Life; but new discoveries and analyses in the 1990s made it seem less of a singularity
    • Anomalocaris - the solution to a comedy of errors
    • Odontogriphus - a mystery until very recently
    • Halwaxiids - just mention the unresolved issues - the ecdysozoans illustrate the issues more clearly
    • Any major new discoveries at Burgess post 'Wonderful Life? (new critters, not just more and better fossils of the same ones).
Orthrozanclus. Poss Oikozetetes, but there seems little to say about that.
    • Comparison w/ other fossils at Early Cm lagerstätten
  • Theoretical significance:
    • Darwin saw Cambrian explosion as the strongest objection to his theory of evolution (it's Darwin year!)
    • The key questions: how fast? was it unparallelled? why did it happen, and why then?
    • Role of taphonomic windows in skewing our image of the rate of explosion
    • Debate from late 1940s onwards about whether appearance of modern phyla sudden or gradual (refs at Small shelly fauna.
    • Gould's interpretation (can't ignore it).
    • More recent analyses and theories (some refs at Opabinia).
  • Very brief overview of current thinking about the Cambrian explosion.
Sounds like a good start. I've tweaked it a little; I wonder whether a theme-based approach to the animals might work best? For instance, the halwaxiid theme would illustrate nicely how disarticulated SSFs were put together into one organism (Wiwaxiia, unfortunately Halkieria was a Sirius Passet job) and incorporate new discoveries (Orthrozanclus, Oikozetetes?), and also highlight the current controversies that rage. An anomalocaridid theme would also be nice, especially with the recent re-description of Hurdia adding a new error to the comedy. Perhaps Opabinia could be worked in with a story of its eventual alliance to the anomalocaridids and arthropods; this might go better in the 'significance' theme to illustrate the power of the cladistic approach. [The anomalocaridid story might fit in nicely with taphonomy to illustrate the vagarities of fossilisation.] I'm not sure how Odontogriphus fits in anywhere, except to illustrate that research is ongoing. I agree that animals should not be over-emphasised; they should probably only be used to illustrate specific points.
We'll have to be careful not to get sucked in with the "Halwaxiids", since that's a black hole. OTOH Odontogriphus (more and better fossils) and Orthrozanclus (new, by paleo standards) are good value per se and because they emerged from the shadows into the fire (metaphors intentionally mixed, it's appropriate).
"Role of taphonomic windows in skewing our image of the rate of explosion" is another we need to be brief with, but gives us an excuse to get in a mention of SSFs.
Not sure about anomalocaridid story "to illustrate the vagaries of fossilisation" - they were soft-bodied, and their size may have made quick burial even more unlikely. Let's see whether there's room. --Philcha (talk) 05:23, 18 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]
There is a danger of getting sidetracked on the CEx aspect; I think the final section should be kept as concise as possible. The location and topography might end up making the article top-heavy, as there's a lot to be said there, but I think it does deserve a frontal position (as long as the significance of the site is clear from the lead).
I agree we must not get carried away w the CEx.
Perhaps we should do the location and topography bit early, so there's plenty of time to slim it down, and to get Wikipedia:Graphic Lab to produce diagrams (worth 1,00 words). --Philcha (talk) 05:23, 18 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]
So, no major disagreements. Do my suggestions sound workable? Martin (Smith609 – Talk) 23:57, 17 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]


This section is transcluded from Talk:Burgess Shale/Sources. The link to Talk:Burgess Shale/Sources can be used to add comments to it.


Location and topography[edit]

Geology & taphonomy ("How the fossil beds were formed")[edit]

Similar beds of similar age[edit]

History of fossil collecting there[edit]

Summary of fossils[edit]

  • Burgess Shale faunas and the Cambrian Explosion (S.C.M.; Science vol 246; 1989) - BS fossils representative of their time worldwide, this fauna persisted for most of Early & Mid Cm. --Philcha (talk) 17:31, 21 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • Moulting arthropod caught in the act (Nature vol 429, p40; 6 May 2004) - Marella
  • Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale (Caron & Jackson; Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology; Volume 258, Issue 3, 18 February 2008, Pages 222-256; doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2007.05.023) - composition of community & variation over time; "probably highly dependent on immigration from a regional pool of species after each burial event" --Philcha (talk) 10:54, 22 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth (A.H. Knoll; Princeton University Press, 2004; p 192) - "Steve originally called his book Homage to Opabinia", "viewing it as key to the biological interpretation of Burgess fosssils" --Philcha (talk) 16:17, 22 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • An Odontogriphid from the Upper Permian of Australia (Alexander Ritchie & Gregory D. Edgecombe; Palaeontology Volume 44 Issue 5, Pages 861 - 874; 2003; doi 10.1111/1475-4983.00205) --Philcha (talk) 00:27, 19 May 2009 (UTC)[reply]
  • Caron, J.-B., S. Conway Morris, and D. Shu. "Tentaculate Fossils from the Cambrian of Canada (British Columbia) and China (Yunnan) Interpreted as Primitive Deuterostomes" (PDF). PLoS ONE. 5 (3): 1–13.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) Pterobranch hemichordates for comparison:,

Theoretical significance[edit]


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This article starts Burgess Shale Formation, yet a wikilink to Burgess Shale Formation redirects to Stephen Formation. I'm out of my depth in this topic area to sort this confusion out, but it seems to me that either these two articles be merged, or that the heirarchy is clarified. Derek Andrews (talk) 13:39, 24 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]

I've switched the redirect back to Burgess Shale. -- OBSIDIANSOUL 22:53, 24 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
The Burgess Shale Member was originally considered to be part of the Stephen Formation (and still is by the Canadian Survey according to their lexicon of geologic units [1]). More recent work has suggested that the Burgess Shale Formation should be distinguished from the Stephen Formation[2], as contemporaneous, but different sedimentary facies developments. Mikenorton (talk) 23:05, 24 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]

GA ?[edit]

I love the topic and will help you (please use my Talk page). But I've see that a GA review is hard, as it needs the same thoroughness but faster, and I have a handicap.

Points to consider:

  • Use only 2, with attribution required. Use your own mode where OK.
  • discovered by palaeontologist Charles Walcott in 1909
  • "significance of soft-bodied preservation" (if quote, attribution required)
  • Alberto Simonetta led scientists to recognise that Walcott had barely scratched the surface. If quote, attribution required.
  • the Geological Survey of Canada under the persuasion of trilobite expert Harry Blackmore Whittington, and a new quarry, the Raymond, was established about 20 metres higher up Fossil Ridge. Whittington, with the help of research students Derek Briggs and Simon Conway Morris of the University of Cambridge, began a thorough reassessment of the Burgess Shale, and revealed that the fauna represented were much more diverse and unusual than Walcott had recognized first-hand reinvestigation of the fossils was attempted, by Alberto Simonetta. This led scientists to recognise that Walcott had barely scratched the surface of information available in the Burgess Shale, and also made it clear that the organisms did not fit comfortably into modern groups. If quote, attribution required.
  • Excavations were resumed at the Walcott Quarry by the Geological Survey of Canada under the persuasion of trilobite expert Harry Blackmore Whittington, and a new quarry, the Raymond, was established about 20 metres higher up Fossil Ridge.[5] Whittington, with the help of research students Derek Briggs and Simon Conway Morris of the University of Cambridge, began a thorough reassessment of the Burgess Shale, and revealed that the fauna represented were much more diverse and unusual than Walcott had recognized.[5] Indeed, many of the animals present had bizarre anatomical features and only the slightest resemblance to other known animals. Examples include Opabinia, with five eyes and a snout like a vacuum cleaner hose and Hallucigenia, which was originally reconstructed upside down, walking on bilaterally symmetrical spines. If quote, attribution required.
  • With Parks Canada and UNESCO recognising the significance of the Burgess Shale, collecting fossils became politically more difficult from the mid-1970s. Collections continued to be made by the Royal Ontario Museum. The curator of invertebrate palaeontology, Desmond Collins, identified a number of additional outcrops, stratigraphically both higher and lower than the original Walcott quarry.[5] These localities continue to yield new organisms faster than they can be studied. If quote, attribution required.
  • Stephen Jay Gould's book Wonderful Life, published in 1989, brought the Burgess Shale fossils to the public's attention. Gould suggests that the extraordinary diversity of the fossils indicate that life forms at the time were much more diverse than those that survive today, and that many of the unique lineages were evolutionary experiments that became extinct. Gould's interpretation of the diversity of Cambrian fauna relied heavily on Simon Conway Morris' reinterpretation of Charles Walcott's original publications. However, Conway Morris strongly disagreed with Gould's conclusions, arguing that almost all the Cambrian fauna could be classified into mode. If quote, attribution required. --Philcha (talk) 14:36, 3 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]

General questions[edit]

Would it be possible to have 'an equivalent of' the Marine habitats map of Oceanic zone to show where the Burgess shale was in relation to the Cathedral escarpment and the ocean surface.

Were the creatures of the Burgess Shale area confined to that depth of the ocean, or would they have been existing at other levels (in conditions which were not conducive to preservation of their remains)? Jackiespeel (talk) 17:16, 7 October 2014 (UTC)[reply]

External links modified[edit]

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Burgess Shale combining[edit]

We have pages for Burgess Shale, Stephen Formation, Burgess Shale type fauna, History of the Burgess Shale and Fossils of the Burgess Shale. I have never combined pages before but there seems like there could be some better re-directs for such an important topic --Akrasia25 (talk) 20:59, 29 December 2018 (UTC)[reply]