New sites for Cambrian fossils are revealing new species and details of known species. Exciting times.
Cracking the Cambrian: New fossils and sites are helping make sense of the mysterious flowering of animal life half a billion years ago.
Throughout much of Cambrian paleontology, that's the gamea high-stakes, sometimes contentious race to find diagnostic body parts on known or new fossils, make arguments about what taxonomic groups they belong to, and maybe revise evolutionary history in the process.
In the past few years, paleontologists have approached the problem with an array of new techniques. Those include scanning electron microscopes, which can discern a specimen's chemical makeup as well as image it, and computerized tomography (CT) scans, which can penetrate fossils without scraping away material.
The uncertainties leave paleontologists ever hungry for newer, better specimens. When there is a debate, you bring a new fossil and say, ‘Look, this is the feature we see,’ Caron says, warming up in a tent perched high above Tokumm Creek. Without fossils, it's speculation.
Each successive excavation in this valley has targeted the same band of rock, which records a single slice of geologic time. But each dig has yielded a different array of new species. That's because conditions varied across the ancient sea floor, favoring different animals. Such variation is not a shock to anybody that has ever strapped on a snorkel and swum around, Gaines says. But this vast, wide-open valley captures that kind of diversity at a single moment, allowing glimpses of how the earliest animal ecosystems were structured.
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Edited by Tanypteryx, : No reason given.
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