Leading Authority on Burgess Shale Prehistoric Fossils Holds News Conference in Advance of Exhibit at Peabody Museum

Yale paleontologist Derek Briggs, a leading authority on the Burgess Shale fossils, will hold a news conference at the Peabody Museum August 28 at 2:30 p.m. to discuss “The Burgess Shale: Evolution’s Big Bang” exhibit, which will open August 30.

“The Burgess Shale: Evolution’s Big Bang” offers a rare glimpse of a prehistoric world and the strange creatures that inhabited it over 500 million years ago before a series of mudslides trapped them in time and place. The fossils provide researchers with the most complete record of life at the time of the so-called “Cambrian Explosion,” a biological “big bang,” which began 543 million years ago. The fossil fauna of the Burgess Shale are among the earliest representations of virtually all modern multi-cellular animals, yet many of the life forms are unlike anything alive today.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is ranked as one of the 20th century’s most significant paleontological discoveries. The exhibition will be on view at the Peabody through November 23. Briggs, a geology professor and curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Peabody, is overseeing the exhibition.

The exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Paleobiology. Briggs and Douglas Erwin, curator of the Smithsonian’s Burgess Shale traveling exhibition, are co-authors of the book “The Fossils of the Burgess Shale” with Frederick Collier of Harvard University.

Over the millions of years since its formation, tectonic forces have thrust the Burgess Shale two miles into the air to become part of the Canadian Rockies. The Burgess Shale is extraordinary in that it preserves not only organisms with hard exo-skeletons but also soft-bodied creatures and even some internal organs.

The exhibit is enhanced with spectacular material from the Peabody’s own Burgess Shale collections that has never before been exhibited. Included are Cambrian fossils from Pennsylvania, Utah and Nevada, and examples of rare, enigmatic Precambrian life forms from Namibia, Newfoundland. The exhibit will also include specimens on loan from other museums.

The Peabody will be open on Labor Day, September 1, from noon to 5:00 p.m. The museum is located at 170 Whitney Avenue in New Haven.

Photographs are available electronically. Contact Melanie at (203) 432-5099 or by email at: Melanie.brigockas@yale.edu

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Media Contact

Melanie Brigockas: melanie.brigockas@yale.edu, 203-432-5099