Between the weird and wonderful rangeomorphs of the Ediacaran Period and the world-famous palaeocommunities of the Burgess Shale, the 'Early Cambrian' is host to a 'waste basket' of fossils untied by their small size and shelly construction.
These small shelly fossils (SSFs) aren't just a single group of animals, but represent several different invertebrate phyla. Further compounding the difficulty of their identification, each SSF, termed a 'sclerite', is part of a larger composite skeleton known as a 'sclerotome'. Whilst some complete sclerotomes have been preserved, many SSFs still represent multiple jigsaws thrown together and the pictures lost.
Piecing the SSFs back together and building a picture of the Earliest Cambrian is Dr Marissa Betts of the University of New England, Australia. Her work on the SSFs have provided a new framework for the regional stratigraphy of Australia and in this interview, we discuss why this was necessary, how she went about it and finally, what we know about the animals themselves.