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The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China: The Flowering of Early Animal Life

ISBN: 978-1-4051-0673-3
248 pages
February 2004, Wiley-Blackwell
The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China: The Flowering of Early Animal Life (1405106735) cover image


The Chengjiang biota is one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries ever made. The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang is the first book in English to provide fossil enthusiasts with an overview of the fauna.

  • 100 superb full color plates.
  • First English language illustrated guide to this important fauna.
  • A must-have for all palaeontologists worldwide.

To see a collection of images from the book, click on the following link: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/chengjiang

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Table of Contents



Part I: Geological And Evolutionary Setting of The Biota.

1. Geological Time And The Evolution Of Early Life On Earth.

2. The Evolutionary Significance Of The Chengjiang Biota.

3. The Discovery And Initial Study Of The Chengjiang Lagerstätte.

4. The Distribution And Geological Setting Of The Chengjiang Lagerstätte.

5. The Taphonomy And Preservation Of The Chengjiang Fossils.

6. The Paleoecology Of The Chengjiang Biota.

Part II: Chengjiang Fossils.

7. Algae.

8. Phylum Porifera.

9. Phylum Cnidaria.

10. Phylum Ctenophora.

11. Phylum Nematomorpha.

12. Phylum Priapulida.

13. Phylum Hyolitha.

14. Phylum Lobopodia.

15. Anomalocarididae (Phylum Uncertain).

16. Phylum Arthropoda.

17. Phylum Brachiopoda.

18. Phylum? Vetulicolia.

19. Phylum Chordata.

20. Enigmatic Animals.

21. Species Recorded From The Chengjiang Biota.



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Author Information

Hou Xian-guang is a Professor at Yunnan University, Kunming, where he is Director of the Research Center for Chengjiang Biota. Previously he was a Professor at the Palaeontological Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing. He discovered the Chengjiang biota and has studied it for 20 years.

Richard Aldridge is FW Bennett Professor of Geology at the University of Leicester. He specializes in early vertebrates, particularly the extinct conodonts, and also works on a range of exceptionally preserved fossils. He is President of the International Palaeontological Association.

Jan Bergström is Professor of Palaeozoology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. His major paleontological interests are in the evolution of the oldest arthropods and the evolution of life at the beginning of the Paleozoic.

David Siveter is Professor of Palaeontology at the University of Leicester. His main research interests are in Paleozoic arthropods, especially ostracods, and also exceptionally preserved Paleozoic faunas.

Derek Siveter is Assistant Curator at the University Museum of Natural History, and Reader in Earth Sciences, University of Oxford. His research focuses on arthropods, especially those of the Early Paleozoic, together with fossils from several Konservat-Lagerstätten.

Feng Xiang-hong is the Deputy Head of the Research Center for the Chengjiang Biota, Yunnan University, and is in charge of foreign affairs and project organizer for the center. She has been involved with the collection and promulgation of the Chengjiang Biota since its discovery.

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The Wiley Advantage

  • 100 superb full color plates.

  • First English language illustrated guide to this important fauna.

  • A must-have for all palaeontologists worldwide.
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"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<!--end-->

"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 aestheti recreation. We are lucky that paleontology is rich in such books, and this one deserves pride of place."
Priscum, November 2005

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Images From The Book    
Maotianshan in the Chengjiang area, Yunnan Province, the site of the first find of soft-bodied fossils
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Maotianshan Collecting
Collecting from the Lower Cambrian pale coloured mudstones at Maotianshan in the Chengjiang area, Yunnan Province
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History Of Life
The geological record with some key events in the history of life
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Cricocosmia jinningensis
Cricocosmia jinningensis , a nematomorph worm, x7.8. This species is known from thousands of specimens. The anterior proboscis, armed with spines, and the dark-coloured gut, are often clearly seen. It is known only from the Lower Cambrian of Yunnan Province
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Paraselkirkia jinningensis
Paraselkirkia jinningensis , a priapulid worm, x13.8. Hundreds of specimens are known for this species. The narrow, elongate, tapering tube presumably housed the trunk of the animal, and anteriorly there is a spinose proboscis for use in feeding and burrowing activities. This species has been recorded only from the Lower Cambrian of the Chengjiang area.
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Fuxianhuia protensa
Fuxianhuia protensa , an arthropod, x2.1. It has a wide ?head shield' and broad, anterior part to its trunk, which are succeeded by a narrower abdomen. This animal lived on the sea bottom, and the pair of grasping appendages in the head indicates that it may have been carnivorous. The species is known only from the Chengjiang biota.
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Microdictyon sinicum
Microdictyon sinicum , a lobopodian, x7.2. It is uncertain which is the head end in this species, which has a trunk on which there are perforated plates, and annulated appendages with distal claws that it probably used for attachment. Microdictyon is known from various localities of Cambrian age globally, though this species has only been found in the Chengjiang area.
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Yunnanozoon lividum
Yunnanozoon lividum , an enigmatic form, x6.0. This worm-like animal may have been a deposit feeder. It has only been recorded from the Chengjiang biota.
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Myllokunmingia fengjiaoa
Myllokunmingia fengjiaoa , a chordate, x5.8. Myllokunmingia is one of the most celebrated fossils from the Chengjiang biota, as it is the earliest known vertebrate. It could certainly swim, though its mode of feeding is as yet unknown. It has been found only in the Lower Cambrian of the Haikou area, Yunnan Province.
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Anomalocaris saron
Anomalocaris saron , reconstruction. Anomalocaris , a large animal with large anterior appendages, was a carnivorous predator. It is one of four anomalocaridid genera in the Lower Cambrian of the Chengjiang area; each contains a single species, all of which are known only from this biota. The affinity of the anomalocaridids has been much debated, their morphology inviting comparison with several phyla, including various worm groups, kinorhynchs, lobopodians and arthropods.
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Context for additional images 119.37 KB Click to Download
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