Article ID: CBB000831712

From Weird Wonders to Stem Lineages: The Second Reclassification of the Burgess Shale Fauna (2008)


The Burgess Shale, a set of fossil beds containing the exquisitely preserved remains of marine invertebrate organisms from shortly after the Cambrian explosion, was discovered in 1909, and first brought to widespread popular attention by Stephen Jay Gould in his 1989 bestseller Wonderful life: The Burgess Shale and the nature of history. Gould contrasted the initial interpretation of these fossils, in which they were `shoehorned' into modern groups, with the first major reexamination begun in the 1960s, when the creatures were perceived as `weird wonders', possessing unique body plans and unrelated to modern organisms. More recently, a third phase of Burgess Shale studies has arisen, which has not yet been historically examined. This third phase represents a revolutionary new understanding, brought about, I believe, by a change in taxonomic methodology that led to a new perception of the Burgess creatures, and a new way to comprehend their relationships with modern organisms. The adoption of cladistics, and its corollary, the stem group concept, has forged a new understanding of the Burgess Shale . . . but has it also changed the questions we are allowed to ask about evolution?


Description On a recent reclassification effort.

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Authors & Contributors
Sepkoski, David Christopher
Brice, William R.
Chambers, Paul
Beard, K. Christopher
Lane, N. Gary
Ausich, William I.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Journal of the History of Biology
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Asclepio: Archivo Iberoamericano de Historia de la Medicina
John Murray
University of California Press
Riverhead Books
University of Chicago Press
Classification in biology
Cladistic analysis
Gould, Stephen Jay
Williams, Henry Shaler
Agricola, Georgius
Gesner, Konrad
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
21st century
16th century
United States
Great Britain
Vienna (Austria)
Natural History Museum (London, England)
American Museum of Natural History, New York
Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris

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