The Burgess Shale

The Fossils

The Burgess Shale is famous for its exquisite fossils of soft-bodied organisms. It is exceptional to find complete animals preserved, especially ones that had only soft tissues and no mineralized structures. (Typically it is only the hard parts of organisms – shell or bone – that become fossils.) When this happens (taphonomy section) palaeontologists can gain a tremendous amount of ecological and biological information about a particular time in Earth’s history. The Burgess Shale is such a site, providing the best window on animal communities during the end of the Cambrian Explosion.

This section briefly introduces the fossils of the Burgess Shale and their significance for evolutionary and palaeoecological studies. Most of the species from the Burgess Shale and nearby localities are illustrated in the Fossil Gallery. Additional species have still to be restudied in detail or even described for the first time – these will be added in subsequent updates to this website.