Epic new fossil site in Canada being kept secret from rest of the world
Researchers finding wealth of fossilized samples from breadth of species
A wealth of new fossilized treasures has been discovered in an unnamed, mountainous region in Canada. The exact location of the archaeological area is being kept secret in order to discourage amateur paleontologists from digging yup the area. The find is so significant; scientists say that the area could change what we know about animal evolution.
In Kootenay National Park, a new fossil site has been located that may one day surpass the significance of the Burgess Shale.
Yoho National Park's 505-million-year-old Burgess Shale - the site of some of Earth's earliest animals is one of the world's most important fossil sites.
Researchers say they are finding fossils at an "astonishing" rate.
Recent Burgess Shale discoveries include the confirmation that the Pikaia, found only in the park, is the most primitive known vertebrate and therefore the ancestor of all descendant vertebrates -- including humans.
More than a century after its discovery, a compelling addendum to the story has been added. Forty-two kilometers away in Kootenay National Park, a new fossil site has been located that may one day surpass the significance of the Burgess Shale.
While nearly 200 animal species had been identified at the original Yoho site in over 600 field days, in a mere 15 days of field collecting, 50 animal species have already been unearthed at the new site.
The remote location is being kept secret to avoid fossil hunters descending on it.
Discovered in the summer of 2012 by an international research team led by University of Toronto ecology and evolutionary biologist Jean-Bernard Caron, the new site is described in a paper released in Nature Communications. "This is an epic new chapter in a research story that began more than 100 years ago and there is no doubt in my mind that this new material will significantly increase our understanding of early animal evolution," Caron says.
"The rate at which we are finding animals - many of which are new - is astonishing, and there is a significant possibility that we'll eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world."
A panoramic image of the area.
Protected by the government of Canada, the exact location of the new site remains confidential to protect its integrity. Future visitor opportunities have not been ruled out.
"We were already aware of the presence of some Burgess Shale fossils in Kootenay National Park," research team member Robert Gaines of Pomona College, says.
The team is set to return to the area soon to continue their hunt.
"We had a hunch that if we followed the formation along the mountain topography into new areas with the right rock types, maybe, just maybe, we would get lucky - though we never in our wildest dreams thought we'd track down a motherlode like this.
"It didn't take us very long at all to realize that we had dug up something special.
"To me, the Burgess Shale is a grand tale in every way imaginable, and we are incredibly proud to be part of this new chapter and to keep the story alive and thriving in everyone's imagination."
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