Fossils of the Burgess Shale - Middle Cambrian

Background information on the Burgess Shale and the Cambrian in General

Phylum Porifera


This is a complex globular sponge with a body supported by six-rayed calcareous spicules in various sizes.

Phylum Annelida

Class Polychaeta - Polychaete Worms


This segmented marine worm has bristle-like appendages on each segment which resemble feathers. The head has a pair of appendages which are curved backwards. The digestive tract can be seen passing along the mid-line of the body.


Note the pair of appendages on the head, and the segmented body with paired bristle-like biramous (branching into two) appendages.

Phylum Priapulida


Priapulid worm. Note the anterior proboscis (on the left) and the dark trace of the interior digestive tract. Ottoia was carnivorous.

Phylum Onychophora

Aysheaia - a lobe-limbed, segmented animal. Also note the spines on the legs. The head end has a pair of tapering limbs with spines, and three small projections near the mouth. Traces of the digestive tract can also be seen.

Hallucigenia sparsa

Note the paired spines (now interpreted to stick up on the dorsal side - or back), and the slightly curved legs. Caterpillar-like.

Phylum Arthropoda

Olenoides serratus - Trilobite

Details of the soft parts of trilobite legs. Note the biramous appendages with walking legs and feather-like gills.

Marrella splendens

Called the "lace crab" by Walcott, Marrella is the most abundant type of animal in the Burgess Shale. More than 15,000 have been collected.

Canadaspis perfecta

Phylum Echinodermata


The earliest known crinoid. Note the difference between the stem of this specimen and that of later crinoids.

Phylum Chordata


The earliest representative of Phylum Chordata. See the notochord near the dorsal surface. It was a swimmer, but it is not a vertebrate. The rib-like features are muscles.

Unknown Phyla

Opabinia regalis

Note the eyes and the proboscis on the head. Note the paddle-like projections at the posterior end of the body.


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This page created by Pamela J. W. Gore
November 12, 1996
Modified February 18, 2004
Links updated August 15, 2009