• Small shelly fossils;
  • ichnofossils;
  • Precambrian-Cambrian boundary;
  • Yukon Territory;
  • Canada

In the past an ‘explosion’ in diversity and abundance of small shelly fossils and of trace fossils has served to mark the base of the Cambrian. However, no evidence has been presented to prove that the ‘explosions’ of the two groups were synchronous. We describe small shelly fossils and trace fossils from the same phosphatic limestone beds that indicate that the two events were separate in time. The small shelly fossils are Anabarites trisulcatus, Hyolithellus cf. H. isiticus, Microcornus? sp., Protohertzina anabarica, P. unguliformis, P. sp. A, Pseudorthotheca sp. A, Rushtonia? sp. A, four types of tuberculate plates and one type of reticulate plate. These fossils represent a restricted, ‘pre-explosion’ fauna and are assigned to the Anabarites-Circotheca-Protohertzina Assemblage Zone, an uppermost Precambrian zone in the Meishucun Stage, Yunnan Province, China. A point at the top of this zone has received strong international endorsement for future designation as the base of the Cambrian. Associated with the small shelly fossils are the trace fossils Cruziana sp. A, Cruziana? sp. B, Rusophycus sp. A, Palaeophycus rubdark and arthropod scratch marks. If found in isolation, this trace fossil assemblage would be considered as post-Precambrian because it includes large, highly organized arthropod traces that are traditionally accepted as occurring above the trace fossil ‘explosion’. We therefore conclude that the trace fossil ‘explosion’ predates the small shelly fossil ‘explosion’. If the proposed location of the base of the Cambrian in Yunnan is accepted, the small shelly fossil ‘explosion’ concept and its relationship to the boundary would not be greatly modified. The trace fossil ‘explosion’, however, would no longer indicate the base of the Cambrian and the ranges of some trace fossils would be extended into the Precambrian.