The Burgess Shale Fossils

"When I finally fall asleep, the creatures of the Burgess Shale come with me, filling my dreams with their silent dance. They are not afraid of me. They treat me like a friend. I wake before dawn, filled with that now-familiar feeling of joy. 'Opabinia,' I whisper to myself. 'Opabinia, Yohoia.' My secret words."  The Secret Under My Skin, page 129.

The Burgess Shale fossils are one of Canada's natural treasures. They were discovered around the turn of the 19th century in Yoho National Park, at the eastern border of British Columbia.

    These fossils show creatures that lived 530 million years ago in fine detail. Unlike most fossils, the soft parts of the bodies such as antenna have been preserved. Because the remains of the creatures were trapped in an environment that had very little oxygen, they did not decay. Scientists are still learning from the Burgess Shale fossils.
      The bottom fossil in these pictures is Marrella splendens also called the lace crab. It is the most commonly found creature in the Burgess Shale fossils and provided the name for the young woman who is a bioindicator in The Secret Under My Skin.

Photos provided by the Yoho Burgess Shale Foundation

To find out more about the Burgess Shale fossils, click on these links.
Return to Secret Under My Skin Main Page

Return to Exploring Science Page

Return to Janet McNaughton's Main Page