The Burgess Shale of British Columbia "is the most precious and important of all fossil localities," writes Stephen Jay Gould.
These 600-million-year-old rocks preserve the soft parts of a collection of animals unlike any other.
Just how unlike is the subject of Gould's book.
Gould describes how the Burgess Shale fauna was discovered, reassembled, and analyzed in detail so clear that the reader actually gets some feeling for what paleobiologists do, in the field and in the lab.
The many line drawings are unusually beautiful, and now can be compared to a wonderful collection of photographs in Fossils of the Burgess Shale by Derek Briggs, one of Gould's students.
Burgess Shale animals have been called a "paleontological Rorschach test," and not every geologist by any means agrees with Gould's thesis that they represent a "road not taken" in the history of life.
Simon Conway Morris, one of the subjects of Wonderful Life, has expressed his disagreement in Crucible of Creation.
For more information about the title Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, read the full description at Amazon.com, or see the following related books:
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