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New museum exhibit and book review: Solving the Mystery of the First Animals on Land - the Fossils of Blackberry Hill

Posted by David Penney on

We are pleased to announce the following excellent review of our book Solving the Mystery of the First Animals on Land - the Fossils of Blackberry Hill by Kenneth (Chris) Gass, just published in the latest edition of Fossil News:

Fossil News (Fall 2016: 51, abridged snippets): "...a beautiful, extensively illustrated book on one of the more important Middle Cambrian trace fossil deposits in the United States (the book contains 81 high-quality figures, most of them in colour and published only in this volume). …a great addition to the library of anyone interested in trace fossils, Cambrian life, or the early invasion of land. For professionals, the book offers excellent images of the trace and body fossils of Blackberry Hill, as well as an extensive reference list. For amateur paleontologists, it provides a nice introduction to the importance of trace fossils in the fossil record (and includes a thorough terminology section, which helps with understanding the geological, ichnological and biological terms used throughout the text).

Some time back we also released a blog post about a large slab from this locality due to go on public display at Milwaukee Public Museum. CLICK HERE to see a recent press release news story to find out more about this opening which is happening tomorrow.

The fossils of blackberry hill

Click the cover to see more information about this title or to order your copy.

What others have said about this book

Niles Eldredge, evolutionary biologist: "A mystery revealed, this book charmingly tells the story of how clever scientific detective work has answered the question of what those first animals to visit the subaerial environments of our world really were – however fleeting their visits from their ancient ocean habitats may have been. Engagingly told by Chris Gass, one of the key participants, the story reveals the importance of a highly special area that holds the fossilized evidence that shows what really happened."

Gregory D. Edgecombe, The Natural History Museum (London): "The early history of life on land is a conundrum that has perplexed some of the foremost figures in the history of paleontology since the era of Richard Owen and Charles Darwin over 150 years ago. At centre stage in this mystery are trackways on sedimentary rocks that we now know are of Cambrian age - some 500 million years old - and were made by animals making the first excursions out of water in life’s history. Here, Chris Gass weaves together the history of science and groundbreaking research conducted over the past 20 years to reveal the identities of these ancient trace makers. His book is a scientific detective story in words and photographs."

From the back cover
Solving the Mystery of the First Animals on Land: The Fossils of Blackberry Hill is the first book to cover the unique group of rock outcrops in central Wisconsin that appears to have put an end to a 150 year-old mystery of global interest. Since the mid-1800s, fossilized trackways and footprints have been found on beach deposits that date back to the Cambrian Period, some 500 million years ago in what is now North America – but fossils of the animals that made them were reluctant to reveal themselves. Thanks to Blackberry Hill, the identity of some of the first animals to walk on land is a secret no more.

Numerous color photographs of spectacularly preserved tidal flat trackways, animals, and parts of the habitat itself, all set in stone, help to tell the story of some of the first animals to explore this strange, new, and presumably hostile environment. Current interpretations made possible by the fossil discoveries are presented, including how some of the trackways were made and what might have lured the animals ashore. Peculiar, winding trackways from giant, slug-like organisms and other boneless animals are shown covering entire surfaces. This book also reveals other surprises discovered at Blackberry Hill, including body and trace fossils of another tidal flat dweller never before found in rocks as old as these, and the first evidence showing that large jellyfish were abundant in Cambrian times and were already subject to mass strandings. In this book, Kenneth (Chris) Gass thus demonstrates why Blackberry Hill holds a special place in the history of life on Earth.

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