One of the great unsolved evolutionary events in deep time relates to the origin and early relationships of the major animal phyla that appeared in the fossil record more that 540 million years ago, during the Cambrian Explosion. Although new molecular data have been very useful, we still have little understanding about the origination of most of the 15-30 phyla of bilaterian animals living on the planet today. The richly diverse and often strange fossil remains that echo this critical time in Earth’s history are particularly well exposed on the continents of Australia and Antarctica.

Whereas well preserved Cambrian fossils have been intensely studied in Australia, very little is known about the record of Cambrian life in Antarctica. Published preliminary studies indicate an untapped source of very well preserved fossil material. The proposed project can be expected to lead to a better understanding of this major diversification event in the history of animal life on Earth.

The project was a collaboration between the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The participants were based at the U.S. McMurdo station and travelled by air, about 500 km south to the premises in Churchill Mountains.

Principal investigator

Lars Holmer
Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University