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p. 1Introductionlocked

  • Michael J. Benton

Abstract

The ‘Introduction’ shows that the keys to understanding the history of life are fossils — the remains of plants, animals, or microbes that once existed. Sites of exceptional preservation such as the 505 million-year-old Burgess Shale in Canada and the rocks of the Liaoning Province in north-east China, which date back to 125 million years ago, have produced spectacular fossils showing soft structures, such as flesh, eyes, stomach contents, feathers, and hair that provide unique and unexpected insights into ancient life. The quality of the fossil record is also queried and the influence of cladistics and molecular phylogeny on evolutionary trees considered.

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