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.

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

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital

The Golden Nordic Club is working towards a COVID-safe winter ski season opening. (File photo)
Golden Nordic Ski Club working towards opening

While Dawn Mountain is provincially run and open, the chalet and Nordic Club are not as of yet

The Interact Club meets in 2019 for their annual Anti-Grinch project. This year, the club members will add the Angel Tree to their list of Christmas charitable causes. (Contributed)
Interact Club takes on Angel Tree

With changes to this year’s Anti-Grinch project, there is increased capacity for the Angel Tree

santa.
Morning Start: Santa Claus has an official pilot’s license

Your morning start for Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

UBCO Master of Social Work Graduate Alix Longland is reaching out to the local refugee community alongside the Family Resource Centre. (Contributed)
Trauma resources ready for North Okanagan refugees

Family Resource Centre working with UBCO social work grad to reach out to local refugees

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Grinch stolen from Penticton home is ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Students at Lavington Elementary crammed a car full of non-perishables for those in the community facing food insecurity. Spearheaded by teacher January Peebles (left), the donations were picked up by Give LUCK founder Myrika Godard, who works to connect donors with donees in the North Okanagan. (Give LUCK photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

(Jennifer Smith - Morning Star file photo)
Three-car crash ties up Vernon intersection

One person transported by Ambulance for non-life threatening injuries

Most Read