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No. 18: Nov-Dec 1981

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The Burgess Shale Puzzle

In British Columbia, a middle Cambrian (550 million years BP) formation called the Burgess Shale has miraculously preserved a vast assemblage of soft-bodied sea creatures, especially arthropods. Does this rich and unusual deposit help elucidate arthropod evolution? No, it has complicated the problem. Few of the fossil arthropods can be easily related to groups now living. The Burgess Shale arthropod population is primitive in some ways but remarkably specialized in others. Some of the fossils have body segments like those in one recognized arthropod group but display limbs resembling those of an entirely different group.

(Fortey, R.A.; "The Burgess Shale: A Unique Cambrian Fauna," Nature, 293: 189, 1981.)

Comment. It appears that Nature was shuffling the gene deck, or that there was rampant hybridization, or that confusing programs for evolutionary change were drifting in from the cosmos a la Hoyle and Wickramasinghe!

Bizarre anthropod from Burgess Shale

From Science Frontiers #18, NOV-DEC 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987