NWU Research Team’s Publication on Science: Discovery of Fossil Lagerstatte from The Cambrian Explosion


In the early morning of March 22, Beijing time, Science published the latest research results of Prof. Zhang Xingliang, Fu Dongjing and others by NWU’s early life and environmental innovation research team--The Qingjiang biota-A Burgess Shale-type fossil Lagerstatte from the early Cambrian of South China. For the first time in the world that the team discovered the Cambrian specially buried soft-bodied taxa 518 million years ago in Changyang area, Yichang, China. It is named Qingjiang Biota, and is another breakthrough in evolutionary paleontology.

Cambrian explosion, has been listed as one of the six difficult research questions together with the origin of life and intelligence. From the beginning of the 20th century to the 1970s, The discovery and study of soft-body fossil biota in the Burgess Shale Fossil Reservoir of the Middle Cambrian in Canada has long been dominant in the field of evolutionary biology. Since the 1980s, the research achievements of the early Cambrian Chengjiang biota in Yunnan province have surpassed those of Canada, and the early framework of the three subkingdoms of the fauna is better-preserved and become the only world natural heritage in China.

The Qingjiang biota recently discovered and Chengjiang biota are both at the peak period of the explosive origin and evolution of the Cambrian fauna. Compared with the Chengjiang biota, the Qingjiang biota lives in deep water environment far away from the coast, which represents a brand-new biota community under different ecological environments, and two studies are highly complementary. “The subsequent large-scale excavation of the Qingjiang biota will provide first-hand information for the discovery and exploration of new body configurations and new animal species,”said Professor Zhang Xingliang, corresponding author of the paper.

Since the discovery of the first soft-bodied fossil in Changyang, Yichang in 2007, the team has continuously employed the integration of field excavation and laboratory research for a long time. Of the 4351 fossil specimens, 109 genera have been identified, 53% of which are entirely new genera that have never been recorded before. The analysis of the “sparsity curve”of biometry shows that the species diversity of Qingjiang biota is expected to exceed that of all the known Cambrian soft body fossils in the world, including Burgess and Chengjiang.

The first author, associate professor Fu Dongjing, introduced that “the characteristics and advantages of Qingjiang biota are demonstrated from five aspects: the highest proportion of new genera and species, the largest relative diversity of metazoa, the largest number of soft-bodied biota, the best fidelity of fossil morphology and the best burial and preservation of proto-organic matter. They are found in the fields of paleontology, phylogenesis, burial science and geochemistry. It has excellent research potential, which indicate the great research potential in fields such as paleontology, systematology, burial science and geochemistry.

At the same time, Science published an expert review entitled “The Treasure House of California Fossils”. Allison C. Daley comments that Qingjiang biota is a shocking scientific discovery! Its fossil richness, diversity and fidelity are world-class and of great scientific value. The follow-up study will hopefully fill the gap in human cognition of the Cambrian explosion and the origin and evolution of animal species.

This research result is the 14th paper published in the Science and Nature by our research team of early life and environment innovation since 1996.


Screenshot of the paper


Analog map of Qingjiang biota