Overview and Highlights
The Burgess shale is famous for its stunning soft-bodied fossils (mostly animals and algae) which offer a
spectacular picture of marine life that populated our planet 500 million years ago. These fossils are of
critical importance in understanding the origin of modern life on Earth. (For more information, visit the
Using the latest web technology and high-resolution images you will be able to browse through hundreds of
images of fossil specimens in the
Main Gallery or use the Advanced Search
tool, to filter particular types of information.
Additionally, because the fossils are usually flattened within the rock layers, the latest in digital animation techniques
brings many species to life. Discover some highlights here:
Hallucigenia - A prickly worm with a twisted history (Photo)
Hallucigenia sparsa (USNM 83935) – Holotype, part (left column) and counterpart (right column). Complete specimen showing spines and legs and potential decay fluids at the posterior part (black area on the counterpart) originally interpreted as the head. Head at opposite end, towards the right (on the part). Approximate specimen length = 28 mm. Specimen dry – direct light (top row); wet – polarized light (bottom row). Walcott Quarry.
© Smithsonian Institution - National Museum of Natural History. Photos: Jean-Bernard Caron