The celebrated lower Cambrian Chengjiang biota of Yunnan Province, China, represents one of the most significant ever paleontological discoveries. Deposits of ancient mudstone, about 520 million years old, have yielded a spectacular variety of exquisitely preserved fossils that record the early diversification of animal life. Since the discovery of the first specimens in 1984, many thousands of fossils have been collected, exceptionally preserving not just the shells and carapaces of the animals, but also their soft tissues in fine detail. This special preservation has produced fossils of rare beauty; they are also of outstanding scientific importance as sources of evidence about the origins of animal groups that have sustained global biodiversity to the present day.
Much of the scientific documentation of the Chengjiang biota is in Chinese, and the first edition of The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China was the first in English to provide fossil enthusiasts with a comprehensive overview of the fauna. The second edition has been fully updated and includes a new chapter on other exceptionally preserved fossils of Cambrian age, exciting new fossil finds from Chengjiang, and a phylogenetic framework for the biota. Displaying some 250 figures of marvelous specimens, The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China presents to professional and amateur paleontologists, and all those fascinated by evolutionary biology, the aesthetic and scientific quality of the Chengjiang fossils.
Part One Geological and Evolutionary Setting of the Biota 1
1 Geological time and the evolution of early life on Earth 3
2 The evolutionary significance of the Chengjiang biota 7
3 The discovery and study of the Chengjiang Lagerstätte 12
4 The distribution and geological setting of the Chengjiang Lagerstätte 20
5 The taphonomy and preservation of the Chengjiang fossils 26
6 The paleoecology of the Chengjiang biota 30
7 Cambrian Lagerstätten 35
Part Two Chengjiang Fossils 39
8 Algae 40
9 Ctenophora 48
10 Porifera 56
11 Cnidaria 78
12 Entoprocta 82
13 Phoronida 84
14 Brachiopoda 86
15 Annelida 98
16 Trochozoa of uncertain affinity 102
17 Priapulida and relatives 114
18 Lobopodians 138
19 Anomalocaridids 154
20 Euarthropoda 162
21 Chaetognatha 248
22 Hemichordata 250
23 Ambulacraria of uncertain affinity 252
24 Chordata 258
25 Bilateria of uncertain affinity 264
26 Vetulicolians 272
27 Animals of uncertain affinity 282
28 Species recorded from the Chengjiang biota 288
29 Phylogenetic arrangement of chapters 292
Systematic Index 308
General Index 312
Reviews of the first edition:
"This book is excellent, indeed beautiful, and would grace the shelf of any palaeontologist. It is well written, attractively produced, and a treat for both brain and eye. The authors have done a fine job of taking what are little more than 'smudges' – commonly flattened, dark brown fossils in a paler brown rock – and turning them into such a truly appealing palaeontological extravaganza [...] It is worth every cent."
– Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology
"Scratching about in the ancient rock strata of southern China is also producing a fossil bonanza, wonderfully illustrated in Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang. Mainly intended for professional palaeontologists, this spotter's guide details the amazing fossils, 525 million years old, that have been shaking the tree of life for the past 10 years. Chengjiang's hundred species, from algae to chordates, challenge North America's Burgess Shale fauna for the quality and amount of new information they provide."
– Douglas Palmer, New Scientist, March 2004
"The authors offer anyone interested in paleontology or evolutionary biology an excellent overview of the setting, study, preservation and paleoecology of the Chengjiang fauna as well as brief descriptions, photographs and reconstructions of more than 90 species."
– Science, June 2004
"[...] this beautifully produced book [...] is the best systematic compendium of the entire Chengjiang biota, offering a rare view of this great episode in the diversification of animal life."
– Zhe-Xi Luo, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Nature, August 2004
"This book is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in the palaeobiology of not only Cambrian ecosystems but also exceptional faunas in general. It is a platform from which to follow discussion on topics such as these, reports of new forms and re-interpretations of those known already, in the coming years."
– Patrick J Orr, University College Dublin, Palaeontological Association Newsletter, September 2004
"[...] a beautifully illustrated monograph [...] "
– from The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life by Richard Dawkins
"A Chinese-English-Swedish team have combined to produce this summary of the fossils, with the text for each taxon a lucid summary of its points of interest and biological affinities, without the dry words of a technical systematic monograph. Each type of fossil is exquisitely illustrated in this stunning book, with virtually all of the pictures in faithful colour."
– Magazine of the Geologists' Association, December 2004
"This is a fine book indeed [...] It is beautifully produced, and all the maps, charts, and photographs are in colour, the latter faithfully reproducing the yellow, brown, red and pink of the flattened fossils and the contrasting paler sediment [...] Whereas research still continues, this book presents an invaluable summary of knowledge at the present time."
– Euan Clarkson, Times Higher Education Supplement, January 2005
"This is one of those rare books [...] that delights the eye as well as the mind. Layouts, fonts, and illustrations are very pleasingly done; the writing is clear, concise and easy to understand even for the non-specialist. Plus the science is impeccable [...] one is enchanted by the beauty of the fossils, and the diversity of unusual creatures blows your mind. I found myself having a difficult time putting this book down, and I suspect that you will too."
– Fossil News: Journal of Avocational Paleontology, June 2005
"[...] this is a timely production [...] [which] can only reinforce our sense of astonishment as to the amazing fossils of Chengjiang [...]"
– Geological Magazine, August 2005
"There is no doubt that the superb photographs of these wonderful fossils are the highlight of this book [...] This first book in English on the Chengjiang biota is a delight [...] "
– The Journal of Biogeography, September 2005
"I have a shelf of books of superb fossil illustrations, to which I turn late in the day, when weary of analysis, and ready for aesthetic recreation. We are lucky that paleontology is rich in such books, and this one deserves pride of place."
– Priscum, November 2005