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The Cambrian Fossils of Chengjiang, China

sdrgThe first edition of The Cambrian fossils of Chengjiang was a ‘must have’ book for palaeontologists, now I am afraid that you are all going to have to fork out for the second edition. After 13 years this completely revised edition reflects the significant amount of research, which has taken place over the last decade or more on the remarkable Chengjiang lagerstätte.

The fossil material of the Chengjiang lagerstätte is of course stuff to drool over and the envy of palaeontologists who have to deal with the more common forms of hard-part preservation.  Over 30 species have been added to the taxonomic list, reflecting a greater understanding of the diversity and taxonomy of this biota, which now boasts a total of over 250 species. A significant number of these are still ‘floating around’ waiting for their systematic identity card so the Chengjiang case is far from being closed.

The discovery is now over 30 years old, being first found in 1984 by Hou Xian-Guang, who is still active and one of the authors of this new edition. Since the first edition of the book, the site has become inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012 as a ‘globally outstanding example of a major stage in the history of life, representing a paleobiological window of great significance’. As such, the 515-520 million year old Chengjiang biota complements Canada’s slightly younger, 505 million year old Burgess Shale biota. The latter is somewhat less diverse (c 120 known species) but has a similar ecological structure, consequently the taxonomic similarities and differences between the two are of particular evolutionary interest and significance.

This second edition of The Cambrian fossils of Chengjiang is much more than just an update. It provides an overview of the lagerstätte and the rapidly expanding literature on all aspects of its geology, much of which is in Chinese and otherwise difficult to access. The format of the book is larger and many of the photos are even better than before. The book would be a good Christmas present for any palaeontologist, even if you do have to treat yourself!

Reviewed by: Douglas Palmer

THE CAMBRIAN FOSSILS OF CHENGJIANG, CHINA: THE FLOWERING OF EARLY ANIMAL LIFE. 2nd edition by HOU XIAN-GUANG et al. Wiley Blackwell. 2017. ISBN 978-1-118-89638-9. Hbk 316 pp.  List price: £85.00 (hbk) £76.99 (e-book).