Thousands of fossils have been discovered. More than half are species unknown to science

An international group of paleontologists has come across a veritable treasure trove of fossils. In a shale deposit next to the Danshui River in southern China, researchers have found some 30,000 fossils dating back to the Cambrian period. Among them, they have identified as many as 101 species, more than half of which are species previously unknown to science.

A spectacular discovery in southern China sheds some more light on the mysterious life forms thatóre existed on our planet pół billion years ago. Scientists now believe that multicomponent lifeórkowe occurred during the Ediacaran period, whichóry began 635 millionów years ago. It is from this period that the oldest multicomplex organisms found in the fossil record originateórkowe. This period was preceded by a surge in the taking ofóThe diversity known as the Cambrian explosion.

During the Cambrian, the current shale deposits were fine silt on the sea floor. Marine organisms died and fell to the bottom straight into the silt. Over time, the silt hardened, but not enough to destroy the remains of Cambrian animals. This is the fossil deposit that scientists have discovered.

So far, researchers from Northwest University and Guizhou University have analyzed 4,353 specimens, identifying 101 species ofóin multicomórkowe and eight algaeów. About 53 percent of them are completely new to science. These species can pomóc to better understand the mysterious explosion of life – cambrian explosion.

The findings were published in the journal „Science”.

The Cambrian period was a time in whichórym many species appeared on Earthóin animals. Scientists put its time frame at from about 560 millionóyears ago to about 540 millionów years ago. Research on the Cambrian explosion began in earnest in 1909, when scientists discovered the treasure trove of fossils known today as the Burgess Shale. Scientists have found fossils there, whichóre were so well preserved that detailedóły, such as eyes and other soft tissues.

Other similar sites have since been found – some in China, in Australia or in Europe. All in deposits of shaleów. But a newly discovered fossil deposit named Qingjiang, tops them all in terms of detailedółów, whichóre can be seen in fossils. These are the best-preserved specimens from the Cambrian period.

Photo. Don King Fu/ Science

Photo. Don King Fu/ Science

Amongód found specimens ofów are jellyfish, anemones, sponges or algae. Scientists estimate that the fossils are about 518 millionóIn years. – The quality of the fossils is stunning. If sent subróA time traveler to the Cambrian period armed with a camera and an X-ray camera, images from whichórymi wrócially, they would have been nothing in porównaniu with these fossils, in which theórych are preserved in detailóThey were finer than a human hair – said in an interview with „The Guardian” Martin Smith, a paleontologist at Durham University.

Scientists are still arguing over what caused the Cambrian explosion. The discovery from the Qingjiang site may have helpedóc to solve the mystery and better understand the evolution of animals.