Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Stephen Jay Gould

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 039330700X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"[An] extraordinary book. . . . Mr. Gould is an exceptional combination of scientist and science writer. . . . He is thus exceptionally well placed to tell these stories, and he tells them with fervor and intelligence."―James Gleick, New York Times Book Review

High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago called the Burgess Shale. It hold the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived―a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in awesome detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale tells us about evolution and the nature of history.





















E. G. Briggs, 1978. The morphology, mode of life, and affinities of Canadaspis perfecta (Crustacea: Phyllocarida), Middle Cambrian, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London B 281:439–87. 3.39, 3.40(A–C) From H. B. Whittington, 1977. The Middle Cambrian trilobite Naraoia, Burgess Shale, British Columbia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London B 280:409–43. 3.42, 3.43 From H. B. Whittington, 1978. The lobopod animal Aysheaia

organism. This activity requires visual, or spatial, genius of an uncommon and particular sort. I can understand how this work proceeds, but I could never do it myself—and I am therefore relegated to writing about the Burgess Shale. The ability to reconstruct three-dimensional form from flattened squashes, to integrate a score of specimens in differing orientations into a single entity, to marry disparate pieces on parts and counterparts into a functional whole—these are rare and precious

elongated, oval animal is about two and a half inches long, and marked behind its frontal region with a series of fine, transverse parallel lines, spaced about a millimeter apart. Conway Morris regards these marks as annulations, not separations between true segments. He found no appendages or indications of hardened areas, and assumes that Odontogriphus was gelatinous. The body includes only two resolvable structures, both on the ventral surface at the head end (figure 3.29). A pair of “palps”

geologists the means of classifying and mapping them.” But in the very next year, 1894, administration called to curtail his work from within. In a letter to his mother, Walcott expressed the conflicting feelings that would haunt him for the rest of his life—pride in recognition, and an urge to serve well, coupled with anxiety about the loss of time for research: 10/25/94 Dear Mother It seems almost strange to me that I am in charge of this great Survey. It is an ever present reality but I

glimpses of the multifarious, largely trivial, but always time-consuming daily duties of a chief administrator. He acted on behalf of friends, proposing Herbert Hoover for membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1917. He encouraged colleagues, writing to R. H. Goddard in 1923: “I trust that your work on the ‘rocket’ is advancing in a satisfactory manner and that in due time you will reach a practical solution of all the problems connected with it.” He promoted the welfare of

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