Saturday, 15 February 2014

Fossils, Fossils, Fossils!

Researchers in Canada have uncovered a new fossil site  near to the Burgess Shale, which is famous for it's preservation of the soft parts of fossils. This new site is revealing fossils at an amazing rate, which will allow our understanding of animals from the Cambrian period (540-485 million years ago) to be significantly increased. So far, 12 new species has been found, but it is likely that new discoveries will continue to be made. The exact location of this new site is being kept confidential, to stop thieves from targeting it.

The amount of fossils in the Burgess Shale and in the new site is due to the Cambrian explosion (540 million years ago), which was the cause of the rapid increase in the abundance and diversity of animals. There are many possible causes of this explosion. The ozone layer (which blocks out the lethal UV radiation) is believed to have formed during the Cambrian explosion, allowing for the development of complex life and life on land. The amount of oxygen in the atmosphere also increased during the Cambrian explosion, allowing larger, complex animals to grow, as they require a larger amount of oxygen to survive. Volcanically active mid ocean ridges during the Cambrian caused an increase in the amount of calcium in the oceans, allowing marine organisms to build hard body parts, such as skeletons, allowing for a greater diversity of complex life. All of this has allowed for more animals to be preserved from the Cambrian period, explaining why so many fossils are found from this time, and why I now want to go to Canada!

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