Saturday, August 1, 2009

Walcott Quarry named after paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott

The Walcott Quarry at Canada's Burgess Shale fossil repository is named after fossil collector and Smithsonian Institution secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott [1]:
[...] the most famous Burgess Shale site, a tennis-court size rock exposure now called Walcott Quarry, where Walcott first found fossils [in the summer of 1909]. Over nine field seasons he collected 65,000 specimens, and the site has since been picked over by innumerable expeditions; [...]
In his book Wonderful Life, Stephen Jay Gould refers to Walcott's work and puts Walcott's findings into current context of problems related to the scientific identification of fossils and their taxonomic groupings. Burgess-type fossils have now been discovered around the globe and the study of their similarities or dissimilarities generates new insights in evolutionary biology and on life during the Cambrian Period.

[1] Siobhan Roberts: Evolution's Big BangA storied trove of fossils from Canada's Burgess Shale is yielding new clues to an explosion of life on earth. Smithsonian August 2009, Volume 40, Number 5, pp.15-17.

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