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The Science of the Burgess Shale

After billions of years of relatively simple forms, life on Earth underwent a revolution with the appearance of the first complex animals ... about 540 million years ago.

The animals of the Burgess Shale evolved at the tail end of this event - the so-called "Cambrian Explosion" - leaving their exquisite fossil remains for us to marvel at. These fossils provide one of the best windows onto the origin of many modern animal groups and the ecology of the first complex marine communities.

More than a century after the first fossils were uncovered, palaeontologists continue to visit the area, searching for new specimens, discovering new fossil sites, and building up collections for a variety of innovative studies.