Near the city of Kunming, China researchers have uncovered a Cambrian-era graveyard for the first time. This is one of the oldest and most diverse fossil troves ever found.
The site, named the Haiyan Lagerstätte (from a German word meaning “storage place”), contains more than 2,800 fossil specimens from at least 118 species, including the ancestors of modern-day jellyfish, insects, crustaceans, worms, trilobites and sponges. There are 17 species new to science.
Five-hundred million years ago, an enclave of ancient crustaceans, worms and other creepy-crawly creatures of the deep were tending to their new-born babies when the unknown disaster struck. An avalanche of sediment rushed downhill, burying thousands of the creatures and their offspring in an instant turning it into a graveyard. For some of the hundreds of species that had been living there it became an untimely extinction site.
The fossil trove dates to about 518 million years ago during the Cambrian period (540 to 490 million years ago), when all life on Earth lived in the oceans. This time was an era of biodiversity boom and bust, seeing an explosion of new species that set the stage for all modern animal groups, as well as devastating extinction events.
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