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Scientists make historic discovery of 500 million-year-old fossils in South China

A 518 million-year-old fossil site unearthed in the Yangtze Gorges area of South China may turn out to be the most significant Cambrian fossil site discovered in modern history. A remarkable Burgess Shale-type site, the Qingjiang biota was discovered in South China by a team of Chinese researchers, along with National Science Foundation-funded researcher Robert Gaines. The newly found site is home to a nearly pristine and diverse 500 million-year-old fossil record that has not been impacted by metamorphosis or weathering. This diversity of fossils may rival that found at the Burgess Shale of British Columbia and the Chengjiang fossil site in Yunnan province in China, which are considered two of the most important fossil finds of the 20th century. The new site is more than 600 miles from Chengjiang. In addition to the high taxonomic diversity, Qingjiang fossils are characterized by near-pristine preservation of soft-bodied organisms -- including juvenile or larval forms, arthropod and worm cuticles and jellyfishes -- and soft-tissue features, such as eyes, gills and guts. More than 4,000 specimens have already been collected, with 101 species identified. Of these species, 53 are new to science and names have to yet to be assigned.

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