February 12, 2014 5:07 pm
Updated: February 12, 2014 9:04 pm

New BC fossil site could be world’s most important

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Video: A major fossil find in B.C. is being called a treasure trove, with hundreds of never-before-seen fossils being unearthed in Kootenay National Park. Robin Gill has the details.

CALGARY – A new fossil site discovered in Kootenay National Park may be one of the world’s most important, according to researchers.

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A century after the discovery of Yoho National Park’s 505 million-year-old Burgess Shale, officials say a new fossil site has been located just 42 kilometres away.

The new Marble Canyon fossil bed was found by an expedition team from the Royal Ontario Museum who made the trek to the Canadian Rockies.

It was actually a hunch that led the expedition team to the area of Marble Canyon, where they discovered a startling variety of fossils.

They pinpointed the source of the fossils to higher up on the mountain slopes and began to excavate the fossils layer-by-layer.

In a little over two weeks, the researchers collected thousands of specimens representing more than 50 animal species, several of which were new to science.

Researchers say it could turn out to be one of the most important discoveries of this generation.

WATCH: Researchers discover new Burgess Shale site in Canada’s Kootenay National Park

“This new discovery is an epic sequel to a research story that began at the turn of the previous century,” says Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum. “There is no doubt in my mind that this new material will significantly increase our understanding of early animal evolution.”

The new fossil site is protected by Parks Canada, who says the exact location will remain confidential to protect its integrity.

However, there may be an opportunity for guided hikes through the area in the future.

This latest discovery, made in the summer of 2012, is described in the latest edition of the prestigious science journal Nature Communication, released on Tuesday.

Officials say it will help scientists further understand the sudden explosion of animal life during the Cambrian period.

– With files from Cara Fullerton

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