New Fossil Find One of History's Greatest

3K fossils, 55 species found in Canada's Kootenay National Park

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 12, 2014 11:36 AM CST

(Newser) – Researchers in Canada have made an "extraordinary" find: a vast collection of fossils that offer an in-depth look at prehistoric life. The site in Kootenay National Park is being compared to what experts call one of history's greatest fossil finds, a 1909 discovery about 26 miles away in Yoho National Park. Both sites are in a rock formation called the Burgess Shale, LiveScience reports. "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," says the study's lead author.

Over a two-week period, researchers gathered 3,000 fossils from the new site belonging to some 55 species, 15 of which were previously unknown. Many are arthropods, the forebears of spiders and insects. Part of what makes the Burgess Shale so remarkable is that it managed to preserve animals' soft parts particularly well. New finds include neural tissue, retinas, and maybe even a heart and liver, providing a closer look at animals during the Cambrian Period, which began some 542 million years ago. "This is the first time we're seeing these details," says a researcher. The team "stumbled across" the find in the summer of 2012, the Leader-Post reports. The discovery, the researcher says, suggests similar sites are out there.

A view of Kootenay National Park, where researchers made the find.
A view of Kootenay National Park, where researchers made the find.   (Shutterstock)
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