Secular variations in the carbon isotopic composition of organic and carbonate carbon characterize the Lower to Middle Cambrian transition that is exposed on the Yangtze Platform at Taijiang, Guizhou Province, southern China. δ13C values for organic matter range between −33.4 and − 26.5 ‰. The carbon isotopic composition for carbonate carbon fluctuates between −2.7 and +3.1 ‰. A progressive decrease in the isotopic difference (Δδ) between these two isotope records reflects a decrease in the proportional contribution of bacterial biomass to the total sedimentary organic matter. In general, the observed changes are interpreted to reflect primary depositional values, notably variations in the burial rates of organic matter. These, in turn, are linked to biological changes across the Lower to Middle Cambrian transition. No distinct shift in the carbon isotopic composition marks the proposed Lower–Middle Cambrian boundary.