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Diversity and species abundance patterns of the Early Cambrian (Series 2, Stage 3) Chengjiang Biota from China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2016

Fangchen Zhao
State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 39 East Beijing Road, Nanjing 210008, China. E-mail:;
Jean-Bernard Caron
Department of Natural History-Palaeobiology, Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C6, Canada. E-mail:
David J. Bottjer
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, U.S.A. E-mail:
Shixue Hu
Chengdu Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, Chengdu Center of China Geological Survey, Chengdu 610081, China
Zongjun Yin
State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 39 East Beijing Road, Nanjing 210008, China. E-mail:;
Maoyan Zhu
State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 39 East Beijing Road, Nanjing 210008, China. E-mail:;


Lagerstätten from the Precambrian–Cambrian transition have traditionally been a relatively untapped resource for understanding the paleoecology of the “Cambrian explosion.” This quantitative paleoecological study is based on 10,238 fossil specimens belonging to 100 animal species, 11 phyla, and 15 ecological categories from the lower Cambrian (Series 2, Stage 3) Chengjiang biota (Mafang locality near Haikou, Yunnan Province, China). Fossils were systematically collected within a 2.5-meter-thick sequence divided into ten stratigraphic intervals. Each interval represents an induced time-averaged assemblage of various event (obrution) beds of unknown duration. Overall, the different fossil assemblages are taxonomically and ecologically similar, suggesting the presence of a single community type recurring throughout the Mafang section. The Mafang community is dominated by epibenthic vagile hunters or scavengers, sessile suspension feeders, and infaunal vagile hunters or scavengers represented primarily by arthropods, brachiopods, and priapulids, respectively. Most species have low abundance and low occurrence frequencies, whereas a few species are numerically abundant and occur frequently. Overall, in structure and ecology the Mafang community is comparable to the Middle Cambrian (Series 3, Stage 5) Burgess Shale biota (Walcott Quarry, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada). This suggests that, despite variations in species identity within taxonomic and ecological groups, the structure and ecology of Cambrian Burgess Shale-type communities remained relatively stable until at least the Middle Cambrian (Series 3, Stage 5) in subtidal to relatively deep-water offshore settings in siliciclastic soft-substrate environments.

Paleobiology , Volume 40 , Issue 1 , Winter 2014 , pp. 50 - 69
Copyright © The Paleontological Society 

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