Cambrian deposits bearing exceptional preservation of soft-bodied fossils offer unique insights into the diversity and paleobiology of the Cambrian biota. In recent years, a growing number of studies have provided evidence that highly labile tissues, such as nervous tissues, may be more common in fossils from Burgess Shale-type deposits than previously appreciated. These discoveries have provided novel insights into the anatomy and phylogeny of Cambrian animals and have also challenged the basic understanding of the limits on the resolution of anatomical information that may be captured by Burgess Shale-type preservation. Evidence used to infer primary blood chemistry was recently reported from the iconic Burgess Shale fossil Marrella splendens, the first such report from a Cambrian Lagerstätte. Diminutive crystals of a copper sulfide mineral found in association with Marrella were interpreted as evidence that the animal's blood contained the Cu-bearing protein hemocyanin. Copper minerals in shales in general, and in the Burgess Shale in particular, however, may have a complex geologic history. Using microscopy and SEM-EDS elemental mapping of material from the Walcott Quarry as well as from the Burgess Shale fossil quarry at Marble Canyon, we assess the timing of emplacement of Cu-sulfides in fossil-bearing mudrocks of the Burgess Shale. These data demonstrate that copper minerals are most conspicuously concentrated within veins that are oriented sub-perpendicular to bedding. These late-stage fluid flow paths allowed Cu-mineralizing fluids to infiltrate bedding plane-parallel cracks, which commonly run through Burgess Shale fossils and extend into the matrix around them. Based upon the relationships of mineral phases associated with fossils, it appears that Cu-mineralization occurred after metamorphic volatilization of a large proportion of the carbonaceous material that originally comprised the fossils. We find that copper minerals in the Burgess Shale are of demonstrably post-Cambrian origin, a secondary overprint that cannot be used to infer original blood chemistry or tissue composition of its fossils.
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Vol. 34 • No. 6