Home | Location | Geological Setting and Age | Fauna and Flora
Taphonomy | References and Links

Home

(PLEASE NOTE: This site is intended as an introduction to the Chengjiang lagerstatte and hence some of the terminology is specific to palaeontology. An alphabetically-ordered glossary is therefore provided to the right of the main pages).

Lagerstätten (sites of exceptional preservation) represent the closest thing to actual video footage of past life on our planet. Generally speaking, our knowledge of the past decreases with age. The farther back we look the foggier and less clear the picture gets. Lagerstätten sites are the exception to the rule. They are brief elucidations of ancient worlds in which the murky becomes clear. Discovery of Cambrian lagerstätten are even more important as they 'fill the gaps' in our knowledge of life at its most significant stage. The Cambrian 'explosion' or radiation marks the beginning of life as we know it. The appearence of major groups that we consider the ancestors of all modern animals appeared at this time. Chengjiang, together with other Cambrian sites such as the Burgess Shale are helping produce the clearest picture yet of our primitive ancestors.

Some Quotes

"An extraordinary fauna has recently been discovered in the Chengjiang Prefecture, in the vicinity of Kunming, Yunnan, China... This is the oldest Cambrian occurence of abundant, well-preserved soft-bodied metazoan fossils."

- Jiang Zhi-Wen
(in Lipps and Signor, 1992)

"Curiously, the first soft-bodied fossils from this region were described in 1912, that is the year after Charles Walcott's initial publications on the Burgess Shale. Further finds were reported in 1957...but the real impetus began in 1984 when...the Chinese palaeontologist Hou Xianguang, from Nanjing, stumbled on the principal locality."

- Simon Conway Morris
(in The Crucible of Creation, 1998)

"When I found the first fossil...I knew right away that it was an arthropod with paired appendages, extending forward, as if it was swimming on the moistened surface of a mudstone. But I realised that you could see the impression of the sofy body parts. That night I put the fossils under my bed. But because I was so excited, I couldn't sleep very well. I got up often and pulled out the fossils just to look at them."

- Hou Xianguang recalls his discovery of Chengjiang
(the arthropod turned out to be Naraoia longicaudata)
(in Exceptional Fossil Preservation, 2002)

"There will be plenty of suprises in the next few years, but we are surely already in a position to consider the general importance of these faunas."

- Simon Conway Morris
(in The Crucible of Creation, 1998)

"...intense collecting efforts at multiple Chengjiang quarries seem to yield new taxa almost monthly..."

- James W. Hagadorn
(in Exceptional Fossil Preservation, 2002)

Navigation

The site is divided into five main areas (links at top and bottom of page). Images of fossils and external links will open in a new window, complete references are found in the 'References and Links' section.

Return to Lagerstätten home page

Acknowledgements

Derek Briggs, Dept. of Earth Sci., University of Bristol, UK (for loaning some of his books/papers)
Stefan Bengston and Jan Bergström, Dept. of Palaeozoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History (for images from: Hou and Bergström, 1997)
Ed Landing and Gerd Geyer, Cambrian Subcommission on Cambrian Stratigraphy (for images from their website)
John Hedley, The Natural Canvas (for images from his website)
Hideo Makigano and Professor Shu at the GeoScience Research Center (for images from their website)

Home | Location | Geological Setting and Age | Fauna and Flora
Taphonomy | References and Links