'Epic' new fossil site found in B.C. national park

Scientist, Jean-Bernard Caron at a new Burgess Shale fossil site in Kootenay National Park that...

Scientist, Jean-Bernard Caron at a new Burgess Shale fossil site in Kootenay National Park that could rival the Yoho National Park's 505 million year old Burgess Shale, home to some of the planet's earliest animals. (Photo Courtesy of Jean-Bernard Caron)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Researchers hit the "motherload" when they discovered a new fossil site in a B.C. national park.

In 2012, Canadian, U.S., and Swedish researchers made the discovery of a new Burgess Shale fossil site in Kootenay National Park, just 42 km away from what is hailed the world's most important fossil site, located in Yoho National Park.

"We were already aware of the presence of some Burgess Shale fossils in Kootenay National Park. We had a hunch that if we followed the formation along the mountain topography into new areas with the right rock types, maybe, just maybe, we would get lucky — though we never in our wildest dreams thought we'd track down a motherload like this," geologist Robert Gaines of Pomona College in California said in a release Tuesday.

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers said the area and its fossils will help scientists better understand the sudden explosion of animal life during the Cambrian Period.

The study's lead author, Jean-Bernard Caron of the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto, called the discovery "an epic sequel to a research story that began at the turn of the previous century."

In more than 100 years of research, about 200 animal species have been identified at the original Burgess Shale discovery in Yoho National Park.

In just 15 days of field collecting, 50 animal species were unearthed at the new Kootenay National Park site.

The team will go back to the park this summer in the hopes of discovering new species.


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