"Leanchoilia illecebrosa" by Dwergenpaartje / CC BY-SA 3.0

Spectacular new fossil bonanza captures explosion of early life

Mar 26, 2019

By Michael Greshko

A wealth of ancient remains found by chance on the banks of a river in China are some of the most astoundingly preserved fossils now known on Earth, researchers report today in the journal Science.

The 518-million-year-old site, called Qingjiang, joins just a few places around the world where fossil preservation is so extraordinary, it captures even soft-bodied animals. Called Lagerstätten, these special types of deposits include Canada’s famous Burgess shale, which dates to 507 million years ago, and China’s Chengjiang locality, which formed at about the same time as Qingjiang but in shallower waters.

“Most fossil localities throughout all of time are going to preserve the shelly things, the hard things … [but] what these localities give you is anatomy,” says Harvard paleontologist Joanna Wolfe, an expert on Cambrian life who wasn’t involved in the study. “These are the best of the best.”

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