The Royal Ontario Museum and Parks Canada Bring Ancient Creatures to Life. The newly launched bilingual exhibition is the world’s leading on-line Burgess Shale resource.

On December 1, 2011 the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Parks Canada announced the launch of the Burgess Shale on-line exhibition, as part of the Virtual Museum of Canada. The website provides, for the first time ever, an immersive journey into the world of the bizarre prehistoric creatures that formed the foundation for all animal life on Earth half a billion years ago. Through the use of never-before-seen visuals, including stunning virtual animations, the website brings to life over 100 years of research and discoveries, in which the ROM and Parks Canada play a vital role.

The on-line exhibition showcases Yoho National Park’s 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale fossils. Considered the most current and comprehensive resource for knowledge on the Burgess Shale, the website features an authoritative fossil gallery including approximately 200 species, almost every Burgess Shale species ever described. The creatures are highlighted by a rich collection of high resolution images and life-like models or digital reconstructions for over 70 species. There are also sections on history, research and practical information for visitors to the Burgess Shale.

The state-of-the-art exhibition took two years to create and was created by the ROM and Parks Canada, with funding generously provided by Heritage Canada. Visit the new bilingual site at The Burgess Shale. Lesson plans for teachers were also created and can be viewed at: The Burgess Shale: historic and scientific explorations.

Located near Field, British Columbia, in the Canadian Rockies, the Burgess Shale contains some of the world’s most spectacularly preserved fossilized remains of soft-bodied organisms from the Cambrian explosion, a period of rapid diversification of life on Earth. First discovered in 1909 by palaeontologist Dr. Charles Walcott, the Burgess Shale continues to yield important scientific discoveries. Many of today’s animals, including snails, sea stars, crabs, and, remarkably, modern mammals, can trace their roots to this unique period in time.

Long-term study and preservation of the Burgess Shale eventually led to itbeing recognized as one of Canada’s first World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1981. Now protected under the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and managed by Parks Canada, the Burgess Shale attracts thousands of visitors to Yoho National Park each year for guided hikes to the restricted fossil beds from July to September.

Each summer, Parks Canada and the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation bothoffer guided hikes to the Burgess Shale from July to September. There is also a great new Burgess Shale exhibit on display at the Field, BC Visitor Centre, and a new Royal Ontario Museum Burgess Shale virtual museum website will be launched in early December. I invite interested readers to learn more about the Burgess Shale by visiting Yoho National Park of Canada.

Photo © The Burgess Shale