Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cambrian Burgess Shale Ecologies Were Stable (!) Temporally and Geographically

Paleocommunity Analysis of the Burgess Shale Tulip Beds, Mount Stephen, British Columbia: Comparison with the Walcott Quarry and Implications for Community Variation in the Burgess Shale


O'Brien et al


The Tulip Beds locality on Mount Stephen (Yoho National Park, British Columbia) yields one of the most abundant and diverse (~10,000 specimens in 110 taxa) Burgess Shale fossil assemblages in the Canadian Rockies. Detailed semi quantitative and quantitative analyses of this assemblage suggest strong similarities with the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge. Both assemblages are dominated by epibenthic, sessile, and suspension feeding taxa, mostly represented by arthropods and sponges and have comparable diversity patterns, despite sharing only about half the genera. However, the Tulip Beds has a higher relative abundance of suspension feeders and taxa of unknown affinity compared to the Walcott Quarry. These biotic variations are probably largely attributable to ecological and evolutionary differences between the two temporally distinct communities that adapted to similar, but not identical, environmental settings. For instance, the Tulip Beds is farther away from the Cathedral Escarpment than the Walcott Quarry. The Tulip Beds and Walcott Quarry assemblages are more similar to each other than either one is to the assemblages of the Chengjiang biota, although the relative diversity of major taxonomic groups and ecological patterns are similar in all assemblages. The conserved diversity patterns and ecological structures among sites suggest that the ecological composition of Cambrian Burgess Shale-type communities was relatively stable across wide geographic and temporal scales.

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