Cambrian Explosion

Lesson Plans Fact Sheet Common Core Reading
  • Meet the Cambrian Critters from Berkeley. In this investigation students study reconstruction of Cambrian animals and compare the animals to arthropod characteristics (follow this lesson plan using the next button in the right corner).
  • The Secret of Fossils
Cambrian Explosion Fact Sheet

Related Shape of Life Videos

Videos

screenshot of "What Caused the Cambrian Explosion?" video"What Caused the Cambrian Explosion?” features several scientists talking about the Ediacran, the period before the Cambrian and then the many possible causes.
 

screenshot of "Gentle Giants of the Cambrian" videoAbout the Cambrian in general and Anomalocarids, in particular. Watch "Gentle Giants of the Cambrian".
 

screenshot of Hallucigenia videoA video about Hallucigenia.
 

screenshot of Burgess Shale videoThis video takes you on an interpretive hike of the Burgess Shale site and its fossils.

Reading

THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION A Big Bang in the Evolution of Animals

Excerpt from the Shape of Life book.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION

From Evolution 101: The Cambrian Explosion

A new fossil site in a different Canadian park in the same Burgess shale rock formation as the one in Yolo Park has yielded new Cambrian fossils. There is a video about this newly discovered fossil bed with scientists working and it really gives you a feeling for the terrain.

From PBS Evolution: Information about the Cambrian, from 2001.

 

THE TREE OF LIFE

Check out our new Tree of Life illustration that shows how all living things are related.

Over 150 years ago, Darwin chose the tree of life as a metaphor for one of the most powerful ideas in biology: the relatedness of all living things. The power of that idea can be seen today in the ubiquity of evolutionary trees (also called phylogenetic trees) in all biological disciplines, from studies of newly discovered species to cutting-edge cancer research. To understand modern biology, we all need to understand how evolutionary trees can be read and used.

The Tree Room provides a wide variety of tools for teaching and learning about evolutionary trees in both classrooms and informal science education settings.

 

ABOUT LIFE IN THE CAMBRIAN

A new fossil site in a different Canadian park in the same Burgess shale rock formation as the one in Yolo Park has yielded new Cambrian fossils. There is a video about this newly discovered fossil bed with scientists working and it really gives you a feeling for the terrain.

An overview of the fossils from the Cambrian found in the Burgess Shale from the Royal Ontario Museum.
 

THE CAUSES OF THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION

This is a good article about the ongoing debate about the causes of the Cambrian Explosion: Unmuddying the Cambrian waters.

Why the explosion? This section of the Royal Ontario site discusses possible explanations.

And another here: What Sparked he Cambrian Explosion? From Scientific American.

From the magazine Nature. Another article about What Caused the Cambrian Explosion.


FOSSIL SITES

An example of what the globe looked like during the Cambrian and the proximity of the Burgess Shale location and the Utah locations.
 

ANIMALS

This is a gallery of Burgess Shale fossils with links to learn about each one.

Pikaia, found in the Burgess Shale, has always been considered a chordate. This article confirms one more chordate feature: blocks of muscle tissue.

Scientists have recently found the mouth parts of Hallucugenia. The more detail scientists find in the fossils, the more we can see how they are connected to the animal phyla.

Opabinia:
Opabinia, another small Cambrian critter, grew to eight centimeters (about three inches). Learn more at Understanding Evolution.

Anomalocaris:
From Discover magazine find the graphic Anomalocaris was a top predator that ruled oceans of the Cambrian period.
From Discover magazine read the article The sharp eyes of Anomalocaris, a top predator that lived half a billion years ago.


GALLERY OF CREATURES AND FOSSILS

Photo gallery of fossils of the Cambrian period and Burgess Shale Fossils and Utah's House Range's Konservat-Lagerstätten Cambrian Explosion Fossils from Fossil Museum.
 

BOOKS

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. Stephen Jay Gould.

 

 

 

Cambrian Explosion