The Crucible of Creation

The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals

Simon Conway Morris

Ch. 1 The Imprint of Evolution

p3 Subtitle "Evolution, Why No Consensus?" I found the writing a bit difficult. He is certainly affirming the evolutionary paradigm. He has statements critical of both Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, whom he portrays as being in strong conflict with each other. Also critical of Daniel Dennett, whom he portrays as a "hard Darwinist", elevating the Darwinian method to a universal principle. Mentions Goldschmidt as the proponent of a "hopeful monster" as a leap into macroevolution.

Ch. 2 Setting the Scene

p19 Pie charts of the chronology of the universe, the Earth, the Phanerozoic and the History of Hominids.

p22 Times of early life, back to 3.8Gy by carbon evidence

p26 At 1 Gy there were advanced seaweeds. Fossils rare, dates uncertain and contentious, dates from Australia, China, Greenland from stratigraphic methods.

p27 The first animals, the Ediacaran conundrum.

p31 Cambrian explosion in South Australia.

p32 Cambrian 550-485 My

Ch. 3 The Discovery of the Burgess Shale

p38 Smooths out to a much more readable account of the discovery of the Burgess Shale, starting from the area of Field, which he describes as a town associated with the building of the railroad. Above Field on the mountain is the Ogygopsis shale which is named after a type of trilobite. It also yielded the first fossils of Anomalocaris. This is all part of Yoho National Park now.

p40 Story of Charles Doolittle Walcott, discoverer of the Burgess Shale.

p42 Timelines of explorations of Burgess, Chengjiang China and Sirius Passet in Greenland

p43 Description of sample collections from Burgess Shale which were then taken to Field to ship to the Smithsonian in Washington. Walcott was director of the Smithsonian at that time.

p44 Investigations of Percy E. Raymond and the Raymond quarry.

p47 Description of Marrella

p47 Discussion of the exquisite preservation of the fossils like Marrella. Something about the medium halted decay.

p48 Evidence from Marrella fossils that they had been deposited by a turbulent flow in all kinds of orientations. Consistent with rapid deposition.

p49 Story of how Morris, the author, got involved in the project. Interesting story.

p52 Says they had 15,000 individual Marrellas.

p54ff Description of Hallucigenia, which he discovered and named.

p56 more of the story of Anomalocaris

p58 Anomalocaris up to a meter in length.

p59 Current searches around Field, Mt Stephen and Mt. Field.

Ch. 4 Journey to the Burgess Shale

p63 Describes trip back to Cambrian explosion as a time-travel journey

p65 Discussion of Cambrian escarpment

p66 Description of mud-dwellers, which he worked on. Priapulid worms were his subjects.

p75 Earthworms under microscope show tiny spines - sea relatives have larger spines.

p76 Mud stickers. Sponges. Just skimmed this material

p86 Strollers, walkers and crawlers, most prominent being Marrella.

p88 Trilobites

p98 Wiwaxia

p104-105 Color plates.

p106 Catastrophe - speculation about event on the Cathedral Escarpment that may have quickly buried the creatures of the Burgess Shale.

Ch. 5 The Search for New Burgess Shales

p116 Greenland 1989. Story of discovery of fossils.

p117 Strong parallels with Burgess shale

p118 Map showing Sirius Paset location in Greenland. Also other locations in US and Canada.

p119 hillside of shale with many fossils.

p122 Return trips in 1991 (4000 fossils) and 1994 . Fossils in about 1 in 30 slabs of the shale scree.

p125 Table of locations of Burgess Shale-type localities, about 27

p126 Descriptions of US sites.

p128 Chengjiang, China. Some observations as far back as 1912, but main body of discovery in 1984.

p128 Fossils spectacular in appearance - reddish-brown impressions on a yellow shale.

p129 arthropods well preserved, also Anomalocaris and Hallucigenia. Very well-preserved trilobites with details of extremities.

Ch. 6 The Significance of the Burgess Shale

p Three themes of debate 1. Wide range of animal design, 2. Maximum disparity or variety at this time and 3. Imagine running the process again. Criticizes Gould for over-dramatization of these themes.




Ch. 7 Animal Architecture and the Origin of Body Plans

Ch. 8 Other Worlds

Ch. 9 Last Word





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