The Cambrian radiation represents the sudden worldwide appearance and rapid diversification of animals. The record of this critical event is documented in a series of exceptional fossil deposits with preservation of soft-bodied animals, especially in China and Canada. The Burgess Shale, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Canadian Rocky Mountain Park in British Columbia represents one of the most famous palaeontological localities anywhere. This site is famous for its exquisite preservation of soft-bodied animals dating from the Middle Cambrian (505 million-year-old) period. Preserved with stunning clarity, Burgess Shale fossils provide an unprecedented source of ecological and biological information not available in most fossil deposits.
The Burgess Shale projects are a series of integrated and collaborative research programs that Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, implemented soon after joining the ROM in early 2006. These projects are primarily focused on the study of fossils from the extensive Burgess Shale collection, with the intent to fulfil the ROM's collaborative agreement with Parks Canada (for whom we hold the fossils in trust) to present (interpret) Burgess Shale fossils to the public (as stipulated by the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO). (Visit Parks Canada Burgess Shale page here).
The first paper to be published from this research program appeared in the July 13, 2006 issue of the international science journal Nature (see below). Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, David Rudkin, was also involved in this study. In this paper, the authors reinterpreted the problematic animal Odontogriphus from the Burgess Shale as a member of an ancestral group of shell-less and grazing molluscs, based on hundreds of new specimens showing exquisite soft-tissue preservation. They also proposed that Odontogriphus and Wiwaxia (another enigmatic fossil from the Burgess Shale) were related and shared an ancestor in the Ediacaran Period, possibly allied to Kimberella, known from Russia and Australia. This research story was widely circulated in the press (e.g., Globe and Mail, CBC News) and radio (e.g. Radio Canada International, CBC French Radio programs).
Jean-Bernard has also established collaborative projects with colleagues in China to quantitatively sample Lower Cambrian localities containing soft-bodied preservation in southwest China (Yunnan province) for direct comparisons with Burgess Shale material.
Follow Jean-Bernard Caron on ROM BLOG:
- Jan 18-2013: My Journey with Sir David Attenborough
- July 31-2013: Thorny worms that swarmed in Cambrian seas
- Feb 11-2014: Mighty Burgess Shale site discovered in Kootenay National Park
- June 11-2014: A Fish with a Big Bang
See also Focus on Research page.
Karma Nanglu (PhD) - (2013-current)
Cédric Aria (PhD) - (2012-current)
Lorna O'Brien (PhD) completed (2008-2013)
Martin Smith (PhD) completed (2008-2012)
Allison Daley (PhD) completed (2006-2010)
Google scholar profile, with list of citations, click here.
*Doctoral research supervised or co-supervised
- Topper, T. P., L. E. Holmer, and J.-B. Caron (2014). Brachiopods hitching a ride: an early case of commensalism in the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Scientific Reports 4.
- Conway Morris, S., J.-B. Caron (2014). "A primitive fish from the Cambrian of North America." Nature. 512(7515):419-422.
- O'Brien, L. J., J.-B. Caron, and R. R. Gaines. (2014). Taphonomy and depositional setting of the Burgess Shale Tulip Beds, Mount Stephen, British Columbia. PALAIOS 29 (6):309-324.
- Caron, J.-B., R. R. Gaines, C. Aria, M. G. Mángano and M. Streng (2014). "A new phyllopod bed-like assemblage from the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies." Nature Communications 5.
- Zhao, F., Caron, J.-B., Bottjer, D., Hu, S., Yin, Z., and Zhu, M., 2013, Diversity and species abundance patterns of the early Cambrian (Series 2, Stage 3) Chengjiang Biota from China: Paleobiology, v. 40, no. 1, p. 50-69
- Caron J.-B., Smith M., Harvey T.H.P. 2013 Beyond the Burgess Shale: Cambrian microfossils track the rise and fall of hallucigeniid lobopodians. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280 20131613. First published online July 31st, 2013 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.1613).
- Haug, J., Caron, J.-B. & Haug, C. (2013) Demecology in the Cambrian -- synchronized molting in arthropods from the Burgess Shale. BMC Biology 11, 64. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-11-64
- *Smith, M. (2013) Nectocaridid ecology, diversity and affinity: early origin of a cephalopod-like body plan. Paleobiology 39, 345-357.
- *Daley A, Budd G, & Caron, J-B (2013) Morphology and systematics of the anomalocaridid arthropod Hurdia from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia and Utah. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology First published online 22 Mar 2013. doi:10.1080/14772019.2012.732723
- Caron J-B, Conway Morris S & Cameron C. (2013) Tubicolous enteropneusts from the Cambrian period. Nature Advance Online Publication. doi:10.1038/nature12017
- Legg DA, Sutton MD, Edgecombe GD, & Caron J-B (2012) Cambrian bivalved arthropod reveals origin of arthrodization. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279(1748):4699-4704.
- *Smith M. (2012) Mouthparts of the Burgess Shale fossils Odontogriphus and Wiwaxia: implications for the ancestral molluscan radula. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279 (1745):4287-4295.
- Zhao F., Hu S., Caron J.-B., Zhu M., Yin Z., Lu M. (2012) Spatial variation in the diversity and composition of the Lower Cambrian (Series 2, Stage 3) Chengjiang Biota, Southwest China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 346-347:54-65.
- Conway Morris S & Caron J-B (2012) Pikaia gracilens Walcott, a stem-group chordate from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia. Biological Reviews 87(2): 480-512.
- Minter NJ, Mángano MG, & Caron J-B (2012) Skimming the surface with Burgess Shale arthropod locomotion. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279(1733):1613-1620.
- *O'Brien LJ & Caron J-B (2012) A New Stalked Filter-Feeder from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada. PLoS ONE 7(1):e29233.
- *Smith M & Caron J-B (2010) Primitive soft-bodied cephalopods from the Cambrian. Nature 465(7297):469-472.
- Caron J-B, Gaines R, Mangano G, Streng M, & Daley A (2010) A new Burgess Shale-type assemblage from the "thin" Stephen Formation of the Southern Canadian Rockies. Geology 38(9):811-814.
- Caron J-B, Conway Morris S, & Shu D (2010) Tentaculate fossils from the Cambrian of Canada (British Columbia) and China (Yunnan) interpreted as primitive Deuterostomes. PLoS ONE 5(3):1-13.
- Zhao F, Caron J-B, Hu SX, & Zhu M (2009) Quantitative analysis of taphofacies and paleocommunities in the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte. PALAIOS 24:826-839.
- *Daley AC, Budd GE, Caron J-B, Edgecombe GD, & Collins D (2009) The Burgess Shale anomalocaridid Hurdia and its significance for early euarthropod evolution. Science 323:1597-1600.
- Caron J-B & Jackson DA (2008) Paleoecology of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 258:222-256.
- Caron J-B (2008) Palaeontology: Ancient worms in armour. Nature 451(7175):133-134.
- Vannier J, et al. (2007) Tuzoia: morphology and lifestyle of a giant bivalved arthropod of the Cambrian seas. Journal of Paleontology 81:445-471.
- Conway Morris S & Caron J-B (2007) Halwaxiids and the early evolution of the lophotrochozoans. Science 315:1255-1258.
- Caron J-B, Scheltema AH, Schander C, & Rudkin D (2007) Reply to Butterfield on stem-group "worms:" fossil lophotrochozoans in the Burgess Shale. BioEssays 29:200-202.
- Caron J-B, Scheltema AH, Schander C, & Rudkin D (2006) A soft-bodied mollusc with radula from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Nature 442:159-163.
- Caron J-B & Jackson DA (2006) Taphonomy of the Greater Phyllopod Bed Community, Burgess Shale. PALAOIS 21:451-465.
- Caron J-B (2005) Banffia constricta, a putative vetulicolid from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 96:95-111.
Complete publication list by Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron (updated Jan 2013) (PDF)
Other relevant stories about the Burgess Shale:
Centennial of the Burgess Shale discovery:
- ROM Invertebrate Palaeontology Collections
- Burgess Shale Fieldguide (PDF)
- Yoho National Park
- UNESCO World Heritage site
- International Conference on the Cambrian Explosion - Banff, Alberta, August 3-7, 2009 (Note: The conference is now over, but click to see abstracts and group picture.)
- First Life by Sir David Attenborough
- The Nature of Things (Gone Sideways with David Suzuki)
Mistaken Point Casting project:
Discovery Channel Canada (Daily Planet)
Interviews at Mistaken Point and Trenton, Ontario
- Broadcast October 13, 2009 (first episode)
- Interviews at Mistaken Point and Trenton, Ontario