Call for Submissions -- Burgess Shale Day

Tomorrow is August 30th, and the 107th anniversary of the discovery of the Burgess Shale.

To celebrate Burgess Shale Day, we’d like to announce an Open Exhibition at the Best of Palaeotumblr gallery. Please feel free to submit artworks to the gallery. We will also be happy to include shout-out links to your blogs, deviantArt pages, or websites.

The rules are simple:

  1. The art should be your own
  2. Any medium is acceptable – essays, poems, musical compositions, sculpture, crafts, paintings, drawings, animations, photomontage… you name it.
  3. NSFW pieces will not be posted.
  4. The subject(s) of your art should be the environment, organisms and researchers of the Burgess Shale formation.

So let’s do this, people! From Anomalocaris to Yohoia, whether it’s a Pokemon Pikaia or a holographic Hallucigenia, a diagram of Dalyia or a silly sonnet about Sanctacaris, let’s celebrate Canada’s Cambrian heritage!
How to Jumpstart Life Elsewhere in Our Galaxy
A new paper on “Genesis missions” explains how interstellar probes could accelerate evolution on distant planets.
By Ross Andersen

A new paper by Claudius Gros, a systems theorist at Goethe University in Frankfurt, suggests that future humans could—and more interestingly, should—send “Genesis missions” to planets with limited habitability windows. With our current technical constraints, it’s hard to imagine sending a Noah’s-Ark-style probe housing plants and animals across cosmic distances. But it looks increasingly plausible that we will soon be able to beam small, light-weight spacecraft to distant stars.

If so, we might be able to stash tiny cell-synthesizing machines on these probes. Once they arrive at a target planet, they could knit together single-celled organisms that would be sealed into dissolvable capsules, and dropped onto the planet at regular intervals. The capsules could seed the planets with a specific mix of microbes, resembling those that existed on Earth just before the Cambrian explosion—the most creative evolutionary period in Earth’s history, when most categories of complex animal life emerged.


The Alien World of the Cambrian

If you were to wake up one day and find yourself surrounded by these amazing creatures, after first freaking out, you would probably come to the conclusion that you were on some alien world.

But in actuality these are all real organisms from earths distant past - the Cambrian period. Artists and animators have joined forces with paleontologists to produce these visualisations of the various fossils found all over the world.

It is likely planet earth will never see a period like this again, and however horrifying it may have been, that is disappointing.

I have listed the names of the arthropods in the captions of each photo.



Oxford scientists have discovered the fossil remains of a six foot long lobster-like sea monster. It’s called Aegirocassis benmoulae (named after the Moroccan fossil hunter Mohamed Ben Moula who discovered the remains). It’s part of a group of species called “anomalcaridids” - giant plated arthropod ancestors who ruled the Cambrian and Ordovician seas (520 - 443 million years ago). FULL STORY HERE

Most of anomalcaridids were like sharks, hunting other sea creatures, but this new species is more like a baleen whale. It used spines on its head to filter sea water and trap tiny particles of food.


  • A reconstruction of the Aegirocassis benmoulae by Marianne Collins/ArtofFact.
  • The Aegirocassis’s spiny net filter that it used for feeding.
  • Allison Daley, one of the scientists who described this new species, at a dig.

Exquisitely Rare Hallucigenia Fossil from Utah

A Cambrian marine worm with clawed legs and dorsal spines

Is it a hallucination? No, it’s Hallucigenia, a bazaar animal of the Cambrian Explosion period more than a half billion years. This was a period when there was an evolutionary explosion of body plans. Hallucigenia fossils are mainly known from the Burgess Shale in Canada and Chengjiang  Maotianshan Shales of China, where where they rare. Cambrian Explosion fossils like Hallucigenia are also known in parts of the U.S. western deserts, particularly Utah, where they are even rarer, mainly because even if they are there, you will probably will not see them. This superbly preserved creature measures a mere 9 mm long.

Name: Hallucigenia sp
Walcott (1911), who originally described it from the Burgess Shale as an Annelid worm
Classification: Kingdom Animalia, Stem group Onychophora, Clade Hallucishaniids, Family Hallucigeniidae
Recent concensus is that Hallucigenia is a Lobopodian worm, possibly ancestral to modern velvet worms (Phylum Onychophora), and some sources even classify them in a separate Phylum Lobopodia
Geological Time: Upper Early Cambrian, (~525 million years ago)
Size (25.4 mm = 1 inch): Fossil is 9 mm long (curve measure)
Fossil Site: Marjum Formation, Drum Mountains, Millard County, Utah
Visit Fossil Mall to learn more about Hallucigenia and other animals of the Cambrian Explosion.

Visit Fossil Mall to learn more about Hallucigenia and other animals of the Cambrian Explosion.


Hallucigenia. Plasma filled glass sculptures by Martin Walde.

“Hallucigenia is an extinct species from the Middle Cambrian Era, about 500 million years ago. The worm-like creatures, which were between 5 and 30mm in size, were first discovered in 1909 during excavations in the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, Canada. Further discoveries were made in China.

Since 1989, the Tyrolean artist Martin Walde who lives in Vienna, has focused on these mythical creatures; their appearance leaves a lot of room for artistic projections and interpretations. The original plastic models, with a scale of 10:1, have developed to include detailed extremities of different materials and dimensions. In 2006, Martin Walde’s Hallucigenia product line was expanded with glass animal objects from the Weinmayer workshop. In early 2008, the first plasma filled Hallucigenia was brought to life. Since then, numerous large scale plasma filled Hallucigenia with scales of up to 100:1 have been produced according to strict guidelines from the artist." Weinmayer

Exquisite fossils reveal oldest nervous system ever preserved

by Andy Coghlan

It’s the most ancient nervous system we’ve ever seen, preserved inside 520 million-year-old fossils. What’s more, the nervous systems of these creatures’ modern-day descendants are less intricate, proving that evolution isn’t a one-way street to complexity.

Found in South China, the five Cambrian fossils belonged to a group of organisms that gave rise to the arthropods, including insects, spiders and crustaceans. The fossils are of Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a creature around 10 cm long, with a segmented body, multiple pairs of legs and a heart-shaped head.

But most interesting of all is its nerve cord and associated neurons. Together, the fossils show the entire nervous system of the organism, apart from its brain – making this the oldest preserved nervous system that has ever been found…

(read more: New Scientist)

photograph by Jie Yang (Yunnan University; China)

Extinct Animals of the Cambrian to the Cretaceous!

This will be a limited edition 11x17 print exclusively for sale at spx​ this year!

I love extinct animals, especially lesser-known and non-dinosaur ones. So here are some critters from the Paleozoic through the Mesozoic. Don’t take the period designations too literally, it’s more of a “pretty much around this time” thing, since I couldn’t fit all of them exactly where they should be, scientifically. I’d love to do a sister-image to this with the Cenozoic era!

Here’s a list of the creatures featured!
Cambrian Period






Early Triassic

Middle Triassic

Late Triassic

Early Jurassic

Late Jurassic

Early Cretaceous

Late Cretaceous

Daily Paleo Art Month #2: Vetulicola

Known from the 525-520 million-year-old Lower Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte, Vetulicola is a member of a strange group of creatures known as vetulicolians. About 9cm (3.5in) long, it’s thought to have been an active swimmer that fed on either plankton or seafloor debris.

And nobody’s sure just what these animals are. They were originally thought to be early limbless arthropods, but more recently opinions have swung in the opposite direct and they’re now considered to be early deuterostomes instead.


Nephrolenellus geniculatus Olenellid Trilobite from Pioche Shale

This is a beautiful late lower Cambrian trilobite from the family Olenellidae, members of which were almost entirely limited to a particular zonal layer in what was the former continent of Laurentia.  Laurentia today is the North American Craton that is depicted in orange-brown in the lower picture. Laurentia before becoming independent for the last 600 million years, is theorized to have been parts of ancient supercontinents Pannotia and Rodinia, as well as others in Earth’s deep time. The ollenellids are treasured by collectors for their elegant if primitive appearance.

Name: Nephrolenellus geniculatus
Trilobite Order Redlichiida, Suborder Olenellina, Superfamily Olenelloidea, Family Olenellidae
Fossil Site: Pioche Shale Formation, C- Shale, Combined Metals Member, Lincoln County, Nevada
Geologic Time: Lower Cambrian
Size: 16 mm long

Image from: Trilobites Family Album