Sunday, August 30, 2009

Burgess Shale Fossils

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Burgess Shale fossils being discovered, here are 3 images of some of those fossils on display at Muséum National D'Historie Naturelle Jardin Des Plantes Paléontologie et Anatomie Comparée in Paris, France. Looking at their labels they appeared to have been collected in 1937-1938. They are on display on the 2nd level of the museum in the invertebrate fossil section (maybe the crustaceans area next to the trilobites).

The famous American paleontologist Charles Walcott discovered this landmark on August 30, 1909 in British Columbia, Canada. Thanks to for bringing this date to my attention. You can learn more about the Burgess Shale and its fossils at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. at their website.

Disclaimer: I had to take these images through a display case that did not provide the best of lighting conditions. Also since these fossils are black on a dark gray background in addition to being flatten thus making them 2-dimensional it is hard to get a good image.

The arthropod Waptia fieldensis that sort of looks like today's shrimp. Its genus name comes from Mount Wapta near the fossil bed in Canada while its species name reflects a town local to the site named Field. Learn more at this Smithsonian Institution web page.

Here is a Burgess Shale trilobite, though when first discovered by Charles Walcott he did not realize it. He classified it as a Crustacea instead and called it Naraoia compacta. It was later to be determined a trilobite by Professor Harry Whittington (Harvard University & Cambridge University till 1983). The genus name comes from Nareo lakes in British Columbia, Canada. See this Smithsonian web page for more information about this trilobite.

This last fossil is called Burgessia bella that is phylum Arthropoda and Class Trilobitoidea. See some better pictures at the Fossil Mall web page