cambrian period


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.


500 Million Year Old Fossil Named After Johnny Depp

David Legg, a scientist who is immortalizing Johnny Depp by naming a fossil after him.

David Legg who carried out his research as part of his PhD in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, named a fossil he discovered in honor of Mr. Depp. The 505-million-year-old fossil called Kooteninchela deppi belonged to a distant ancestor of lobsters and scorpions.

K. deppi is helping researchers find out more about life on Earth during the Cambrian period, which is when the majority of modern animal types emerged.

“When I first saw the pair of isolated claws in the fossil records of this species I could not help but think of Edward Scissorhands,” Legg said. “Even the genus name, Kootenichela, includes the reference to this film as ‘chela’ is Latin for claws or scissors. In truth, I am also a bit of a Depp fan and so what better way to honour the man than to immortalise him as an ancient creature that once roamed the sea?”

The ancient lobster-like creature lived in very shallow seas off the coast of British Columbia in Canada. Sea temperatures in this area would have been much hotter than today, and although coral reefs had not yet been established, Kooteninchela deppi would have lived in a similar environment made up predominantly of sponges.

Legg believes the ancient creature would have been a hunter or scavenger. Its claws may have been used to capture prey, or they could have helped it probe the sea floor looking for sea creatures hiding in sediment.

K. deppi was about 1.5-inches long with an elongated trunk for a body and millipede-like legs. It had large eyes composed of many lenses like the compound eyes of a fly. These eyes were positioned on top of movable stalks called peduncles to help it search for food and keep a look out for predators.

“Just imagine it: the prawns covered in mayonnaise in your sandwich, the spider climbing up your wall and even the fly that has been banging into your window and annoyingly flying into your face are all descendants of Kooteninchela deppi,” Legg said.

Oh, the Cambrian Can!

So I wrote song parody about the Cambrian period. It’s pretty obvious what song I’m parodying.

What geologic period

Could change a small array

To nearly all the metazoan phyla found today?

The Cambrian…

Oh, the Cambrian can!

The Cambrian can with its increased O2 levels

and diversity.

When did early creatures

Develop shells and bones?

And claws and eyes to fossilise and be preserved in stone?

The Cambrian…

Oh, the Cambrian can!

The Cambrian can with its explosion of life

and all its predators

Within the Cambrian,

the major body plans

of animals all got their start-a…

They’re well preserved in Cambrian strata…

From Arthropoda to Chordata!

Fossil beds from Chengjiang

And the Burgess Shale

Excellently preserve all the claws and plates and tails

from the Cambrian,

Oh, the Cambrian can

The Cambrian can with its fossil lagerstaaten

speak to us through time

The Cambrian had this!


What a strange big shrimpy fella,

with trilobites and Haikouella…

and Opabinia and Marella!

What geologic period

could could take the Cambrian’s life?

Wipe it out and replace it with orthocones and strife?

the Ordovician

The Ordovician can

But everyone knows scorpions and jawless fish are

not as good as trilobites

Ostracoderms and land plants just can’t beat

the Cambrian fauna, you know that’s right

That silly Ordovician ends in one big pointless

mass extinction anyway


A clever creature and its possible inspiration.

Top: The Phalanx from the video game Demon’s Souls.  Stolen from another blogger who apparently scanned it from the artbook that comes with the Deluxe Edition of the game.  Artist unknown.

Bottom: An artist’s conception of the fossil invertebrate Wiwaxia.  Scanned from Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould.

(LiveScience)  Gigantic Cambrian Shrimplike Creature Unearthed in Greenland

A new filter-feeding giant that trolled the Cambrian seas has been unearthed in Greenland.

The species, dubbed Tamisiocaris borealis, used large, bristly appendages on its body to rake in tiny shrimplike creatures from the sea, and likely evolved from the top predators of the day to take advantage of a bloom in new foods in its ecosystem, said study co-author Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist at the University of Bristol in England.


On August 30, 1909, American paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale Formation, located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. With its Cambrian fossils the Burgess Shale is one of the world’s most celebrated fossil fields. Walcott excavated repeatedly to collect more than 65,000 specimens from what is now known as the Walcott Quarry, named after him.

Human Life is a Genetic Joke

This explains a lot: “Over 500 million years ago a spineless creature on the ocean floor experienced two successive doublings in the amount of its DNA, a "mistake” that eventually triggered the evolution of humans and many other animals, says a new study. The good news is that these ancient DNA doublings boosted cellular communication systems, so that our body cells are now better at integrating information than even the smartest smartphones. The bad part is that communication breakdowns, traced back to the very same genome duplications of the Cambrian Period, can cause diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders.“

This is a model of Laggania cambria, a smaller contemporary (but still quite big: 60 cm) of the more famous Anomalocaris. Genus Laggania was formerly assigned to the fragmented body of Anomalocaris, and was thought as a sponge instead. The same happens to the mouthpart, which was given name Peytoia and was thought to be a jellyfish. The puzzle continued for a while until a complete fossil of Anomalocaris was found.

Note: a recent change in the Wikipedia article says that the name for this is now Peytoia nathorsti, due to the oldest name taking the priority. This kind of debate is frequent in biology, and I am unsure whether to use this recent update or not, so I’m using the popular consensus instead.