Burgess Shale Projects

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.

See Jean-Bernard's homepage here and visit the Virtual Museum of Canada Burgess Shale website to learn more about the Burgess Shale.

Follow Jean-Bernard Caron on ROM BLOG:



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

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:

Parks Canada;

Shale of the century: mining the rich seam of the Burgess Shale;

The Burgess Shale: Evolution's Big Bang

Re-examining the Burgess Shale



Other Links


Mistaken Point Casting project:

Recent Publications