Chengjiang Fossil Site
A hilly 512 ha site in Yunnan province, Chengjiang’s fossils present the most complete record of an early Cambrian marine community with exceptionally preserved biota, displaying the anatomy of hard and soft tissues in a very wide variety of organisms, invertebrate and vertebrate. They record the early establishment of a complex marine ecosystem. The site documents at least sixteen phyla and a variety of enigmatic groups as well as about 196 species, presenting exceptional testimony to the rapid diversification of life on Earth 530 million years ago, when almost all of today’s major animal groups emerged. It opens a palaeobiological window of great significance to scholarship. © UNESCO
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Description of values
An exceptional fossil record of the rapid diversification of life on Earth during the early Cambrian period, some 520 million years ago
A check of fossils for sale on the web indicates that Chengjiang material is still being illegally offered for purchase on the open market, with prices of US $1000+ dollars for some specimen not uncommon.
In order to increase protection of the World Heritage site, on 26th May 2017 the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th People’s Congress of Yunnan Province approved ‘Yunnan province Chengjiang fossil site world natural heritage protection regulation’. On 1st July 2017 the implementation of this regulation started, to further strengthen the protection afforded to the Chengjiang fossils (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Babcock, Loren E. et al., 2001. The Chengjiang Biota: record of Early Cambrian diversification of life and clues to exceptional preservation of fossils. GSA Today (February 2001): 4-9.
China, 2011. Ghengjiang Fossil Site, China World Heritage nomination.
Cong Peiyun,, Ma Xiaoya, Williams M., Siveter David J., Siveter Derek J., Gabbott S.E., Zhai Dayou, Goral Tomasz, Edgecombe G.D. & Hou Xianguang. 2017. Host specific infestation in early Cambrian worms. Nature Ecology & Evolution. Doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0278-4.
Dzik, Jerzy 2004. Review of: Hou, Xian-Guang et al. 2003. The Cambrian fossils of Chengjiang, China: the flowering of early animal life. Journal of Sedimentary Geology.
Hagadorn, James W., 2002. Chengjiang:early record of the Cambrian explosion. Chapter 3, pp. 35-60 in: Bottjer, D.J. et al. (eds.), 2002. Exceptional fossil preservation: a unique view of the evolution of marine life. Columbia University Press, New York.
Hou Xian-guang, Siveter, David J., Siveter, Derek J., Aldridge, Richard J., Cong, Pei-yun, Gabbott, Sarah E., Ma, Xiao-ya, Purnell, Mark A., Williams, Mark. 2017. The Cambrian fossils of Chengjiang. The flowering of early animal life. Wiley-Blackwell, 316 pp, Oxford.
Hou, X. et al., 2004. The Cambrian fossils of Chengjiang, China—The Flowering of Early Animal Life. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
IUCN Consultation, 2017.
IUCN, 2012. Evaluation of the Chengjiang Fossil Site World Heritage nomination.
Ma, X. et al., 2012. Complex brain and optic lobes in an early Cambrian arthropod. Nature, 490: 258-261.
Ma, X. et al., 2014. An exceptionally preserved arthropod cardiovascular system from the early Cambrian. Nature Communications, 5: 3560. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4560
Tanaka, G. et al., 2013. Chelicerate neural ground pattern in a Cambrian great appendage arthropod. Nature, 502: 364-367.
Zhang, W. & Hou, X. 1985. Preliminary notes on the occurance of the unusual trilobite Naraoia in Asia. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 24: 591-595.