Jean-Bernard Caron

Associate Professor, Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology
ROM 347G, 100 Queens Park, Toronto ON M5S 2C6



Department of Earth Sciences
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

My research focuses primarily on the study of the first complex marine communities from the period just following the Early Cambrian. The Cambrian explosion represents the sudden worldwide appearance and rapid diversification of most major animal groups, starting about 540 million years ago. The record of this critical event is preserved in a series of exceptional fossil deposits, especially in China and Canada, of which the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale (a UNESCO World Heritage site in British Columbia) is certainly the most famous. My research is currently oriented in three main complementary areas: 1) to elucidate the ecology and affinities of dozens of specific fossil taxa in order to shed crucial light on: a) the origin and relationship of major animal body plans and, b) the acquisition of functional novelties during the Cambrian explosion; 2) to better understand the interaction between environmental signals and community composition in Cambrian biota; 3) to better understand community patterns at varying temporal and spatial scales, especially between sites from different paleogeographic and paleoecologic settings. 


Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron is the Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada. After becoming fascinated with fossils as a child in France, he spent the summers of his teenaged years volunteering at archaeological and palaeontological digs across Europe. He went on to obtain his Diplôme d'Études Approfondies in Palaeontology, Sedimentology and Chronology from theUniversity Claude-Bernard, Lyon, before completing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Caron’s research focuses on the fossilization and ecology of animals that lived during the Cambrian “explosion” of diversity around 540 to 485 million years ago. He leads regular fieldwork activities during the summers to recover fossils of these animals from the Burgess Shale in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. Dr. Caron has won many awards for his research and outreach activities on the Burgess Shale, including the Pikaia Award for outstanding contributions to Canadian research from the Palaeontology Division of the Geological Association of Canada. Several of his studies, including announcements of the discoveries of new organisms, such as the oldest known fish outside of China, were published in top journals such as Science and Nature. Dr. Caron is dedicated to public outreach as well as to research; he was interviewed by Sir David Attenborough in the Emmy-winning series “First Life,” and also appeared numerous radio interviews and in BBC and Discovery Channel documentaries on Cambrian fossils. Dr. Caron is also overseeing the development of the ROM’s permanent Willner Madge Gallery, Dawn of Life.


PhD, University of Toronto
MSc, University Claude-Bernard, Lyon
BSc, University Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand