The Cambrian Period (541–485 million years ago or ‘Ma’) represents a crucial phase in the history of the Earth, as it brought the sudden appearance of many animal groups showing unprecedented anatomies and behaviour.
Our research has focused on fossils of the Emu Bay Shale Biota that preserve minute details of early animals with and without mineral skeletons. These fossils preserve not only body outlines, but also gut contents, appendages and even eyes, in almost live quality. Together with tiny shells and other microfossils from Cambrian rocks of South Australia, the Emu Bay fossils document the rapid evolution of marine life following the extinction of most Ediacara fossil groups. Our research is helping to understand the palaeoecological changes that led to rapid evolution of animal groups which are present in modern marine ecosystems.
Researchers involved include Diego Garcia-Bellido, Mike Lee, Jim Gehling, Mary-Anne Binnie, John Paterson (University of New England), Jim Jago (University of South Australia), Greg Edgecombe (Natural History Museum, London) and Glenn Brock (Macquarie University).