Epic animal fossil discovery in Kootenay National Park

Research team uncovers "motherlode" of Burgess Shale in Marble Canyon.

New arthropod ROM 62976 discovered at the Marble Canyon site.

A stunning fossil discovery in Kootenay National Park’s Marble Canyon may change humankind’s understanding of early animal life over 500 million years ago.

“We were already aware of the presence of some Burgess Shale fossils in Kootenay National Park. We had a hunch that if we followed the formation along the mountain topography into new areas with the right rock types, maybe, just maybe, we would get lucky,” said geologist Dr. Robert Gaines of Pomona College in California. He  was a member of the Royal Ontario Museum team that made the find in the summer of 2012. “We never in our wildest dreams thought we’d track down a motherlode like this. It didn’t take us very long at all to realize that we had dug up something special.”

Though the discovery was made a year and a half ago, yesterday (Tuesday, February 11th) saw the first time a paper on Kootenay National Park’s new Marble Canyon fossil beds was published, appearing in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

In just 15 days of field collecting, 50 animal species were unearthed at the new Kootenay National Park site. Compared to the approximately 200 animal species identified in over 600 field days at the original Burgess Shale discovery in Yoho National Park indicates the Kootenay National Park site appears to equal the importance of the original discovery, and may one day even surpass it.

“This new discovery is an epic sequel to a research story that began at the turn of the previous century, and there is no doubt in my mind that this new material will significantly increase our understanding of early animal evolution,” said the study’s lead author, University of Toronto Associate Professor Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, who is the Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum.

“The rate at which we are finding animals – many of which are new – is astonishing, and there is a high possibility that we’ll eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho National Park site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world.”

Home to some of the planet’s earliest animals, including a very primitive human relative, Yoho National Park’s 505-million-year-old Burgess Shale was discovered by world-renowned paleontologist Charles Walcott in 1909 and is one of the world’s most important fossil sites. Recognized in 1980 as one of Canada’s first UNESCO Heritage Site, it’s now protected under the Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts thousands of visitors on guided hikes to the restricted fossil beds each year.

According to the release, the new site in Kootenay parallels Yoho in its spectacular richness of arthropods, a group that today represents more than 80 per cent of all living animals, including insects, spiders and lobsters. Some species found at the new Kootenay site are also found in China’s famous Chengjiang fossil beds, which are 10 million years older. This contributes to the pool of evidence suggesting that the local and worldwide distribution of Cambrian animals, as well as their longevity, might have been underestimated, states the release.

The research team will be returning to the site this summer with the main goal of increasing the number of new species discovered. Parks Canada is keeping the exact location of the Marble Canyon site confidential to protect its integrity. To learn more about the Burgess Shale in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, visit www.pc.gc.ca/burgessshale .


Just Posted

Painting by Winston Churchill of lake near Field sells for $87,000

Churchill had painted the work during 1929 visit before becoming UK prime minister

Banked Slalom marks first of its kind event at Kicking Horse

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort hosted its first ever snowboard only event last… Continue reading

Women in business: Peggy chalmers is a staple to Golden’s community

What began as a trip to visit Golden in the 1970s evolved… Continue reading

As bats leave hibernacula, they are easier to spot

The B.C. Community Bat Program, in collaboration with the Province of B.C.,… Continue reading

Women’s Day is a reason to celebrate this year

International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world on March 8, but… Continue reading

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

B.C. Scientists witness first-ever documented killer whale infanticide

“It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time.”

Okanagan Falls winery showing international photo project

Liquidity Wines will be sole Canadian show of National Geographic’s Photo Ark

Lawyer for one suspect in beating of man with autism says he’s not guilty

Ronjot Singh Dhami will turn himself in, lawyer said

Liberals awarded $100,000 contract to man at centre of Facebook data controversy

Christopher Wylie says his voter-profiling company collected private information from 50 million Facebook users

Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes in privacy scandal

Zuckerberg admits to privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm, but no apology

UPDATE: Former B.C. city councillor sentenced nine months for sexual assault

Dave Murray, convicted this past fall, hired a private investigator to intrude on the victim’s life.

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to Canadian teen

A 14-year-old girl has been charged in connection with an online threat against a high school

Most Read