Cambrian Burgess Shale Animals Replicated in Clay Minerals

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Science  21 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5380, pp. 1173-1175
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5380.1173

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Although the evolutionary importance of the Burgess Shale is universally acknowledged, there is disagreement on the mode of preservation of the fossils after burial. Elemental mapping demonstrates that the relative abundance of elements varies between different anatomical features of the specimens. These differences reflect the compositions of the minerals that replicated the decaying organism, which were controlled by contrasts in tissue chemistry. Delicate morphological details are replicated in the elemental maps, showing that authigenic mineralization was fundamental to preserving these fossils, even though some organic remains are also present.

  • * Present address: Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PR, UK.

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