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Burgess Shale fossil beds in Kootenay park yield 'astounding' finds

Scientists are continuing to explore a new Burgess Shale site on the Alberta-B.C. border that has already yielded thousands of discoveries, some of them never before seen.

Scientists exploring site found in 2012 finding never-before-seen species from more than 500 million years ago

Scientists are back at the Burgess Shale in Kootenay National Park this summer to search for more fossils. 2:48

Scientists are continuing to explore a new Burgess Shale site on the Alberta-B.C. border that has already yielded thousands of discoveries, some of them never before seen.

The Marble Canyon fossil beds were found in 2012 by a team of Canadian, U.S. and Swedish researchers in Kootenay National Park and kept secret until this year. 

The site is just 40 kilometres from the 505-million-year-old Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park, one of the most important fossil fields in the world.

In 2012, researchers did a major dig and found more than 3,000 specimens, including 55 species — 12 of them new to the science world.

Royal Ontario Museum curator Jean Bernard Caron came back this year for a more extensive project.

The fossils are very well preserved, he said.

“You can see the last meal of this organism and what he ate and so you can start building this interaction that existed during the Cambrian more than 500 million years ago. This is exceptional,” he said.

"This rock really tells us much more about our roots the roots of modern biodiversity, including us."

The discoveries made so far have been exciting, said Robert Gaines, a geologist at Pomona College in southern California.

"Fully 20 per cent of the species we're finding here are brand new to science and so that is really ... astounding," he said.

The dig started in July and wraps in early September.

"Right now the focus for Parks Canada, and for the Royal Ontario Museum, is to do the research here and it is possibly down the road a thought of having this available to guided hikes to this site as well," said Kristi Beetch with Parks Canada.

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