The rocks and fossils of the Chengjiang Fossil Site present an outstanding and extraordinarily preserved record that testifies to the rapid diversification of life on Earth during the early Cambrian period, million years before present. In this geologically short interval, almost all major groups of animals had their origins. The diverse geological evidence from the Chengjiang Fossil Site presents fossil remains of the highest quality of preservation and conveys a complete record of an early Cambrian marine community. It is one of the earliest records of a complex marine ecosystem and a unique window of understanding into the structure of early Cambrian communities. Criterion viii : The Chengjiang Fossil Site presents an exceptional record of the rapid diversification of life on Earth during the early Cambrian period, million years before present.
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Comprising a hectare- 1,acre- parcel of hilly terrain in Yunnan province, the site is one of the most-important fossil formations showing evidence of the rapid diversification of life on Earth during the Cambrian explosion. Since it was discovered in the s, approximately species of hard- and soft-tissued fossils have been recovered from the bed.
The excellent condition of the fossils is attributed to the fact that the fossil bed was once a shallow sea that possessed a muddy substrate. It is thought that mud and sediment from the sea covered the remains and formed mudstone , which prevented or greatly slowed the decomposition of the dead material. The Chengjiang fossil site contains representatives from at least 16 phyla. It harbours evidence of an early Cambrian marine community that contained sponges , cnidarians a group that contains present-day sea anemones , jellyfish , and others , ctenophores comb jellies , and priapulids marine unsegmented worms.
The site also contains the earliest known vertebrates and possibly the oldest chordate s in the fossil record. Some of the more-notable groups uncovered include echinoderms , trilobites , and the first agnathans , or primitive jawless fishes. In addition, a number of unclassified specimens also appear, along with the oldest known soft-tissue specimens brain tissues from the marine arthropod Fuxianhuia protensa, which have been dated to roughly million years ago.
Scientists have noted that since many of the species found at Chengjiang were part of the same food chain , the marine community serves as one of the oldest examples of a complex ecosystem.
Newfound fossils in China highlight a dizzying diversity of Cambrian life
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