Chengjiang, in Yunnan, southwest China, is one of the most celebrated and important fossil localities in the world. When well-preserved soft-bodied animals were found there in the 1980s, they were immediately compared to the famous Burgess Shale fossils that we’ll talk about in a few days. And at about 525 million years old, they were found to be about 10 million years older than the Burgess fauna.
|Maotianshania cylindrica, a nematode worm.|
The life that lived in the Cambrian of China included trilobites, as well as sponges, jellyfish, lots of kinds of worms, and importantly, the oldest probable chordates. Chordates have notochords, a linear arrangement of nerves that in vertebrates like us has evolved into our backbone and spinal chord. This means that the ancestors of modern birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and mammals – and us – are pretty ancient, at least 525 million years old.
I would encourage listeners to check the links below to sources for more information and photos of the Chengjiang fauna.
Photo by SNP under GFDL.
Update (April 2014): New arthropod with cardiovascular system reported