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 .

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wrangle the Chute returns to Kicking Horse

Wrangle the Chute will be returning to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort from… Continue reading

Kicking Horse Update Friday January 17

Kicking Horse reports 10 cm of snow in the last 24 hours,with… Continue reading

Highway Update Friday January 17

On Highway 1, watch for slippery sections between Three Valley Avalanche Gate… Continue reading

Golden nominated for Kraft Hockeyville 2020

Nominations close on Feb. 9.

Kicking Horse Update Thursday, January 16

Kicking Horse reports 3cm of snow in the last 24 hours,with snow… Continue reading

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Kelowna’s “Baby Mary” finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

B.C. offers $5 million equipment loan program to help ailing forest contractors

Local politicians in Port McNeill and Campbell River says local economies are struggling

Vancouver Island distillery wins award for best Canadian rye whisky

Shelter Point cleans up at Canadian Whisky Awards

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

On the job hunt with Nelson’s Make A Change Canada

The employment charity is organizing next week’s Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens game

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Most Read