Well we’re finally here, only a few months late, at my final post and final 9 bits about Canadian palaeontology. For my last post, I’m going to focus on Saskatchewan and Yukon, two areas I managed to ignore a bit through my previous posts. These are by no means less interesting or important that what I’ve talked about, just slipped my mind and couldn’t figure out where to fit things in. So without further delay, starting at 142/150, with some bits from Saskatchewan, which was pointed out (thanks John Storer!) that I had been ignoring:
142. Like the rest of Canada, Saskatchewan has a lot of palaeontological history. Sharing several of the Late Cretaceous formations with Alberta, it has a fantastic record of Late Cretaceous fossils, including home of Scotty the T. rex , one of the most complete (and largest!) specimens known at approximately 70% complete, which was found in southwestern Saskatchewan.
143. Scotty is housed in the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, SK, a museum run by the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, which features other fossils found nearby and from the rest of Saskatchewan, including what was around after the dinosaurs went extinct.
144. Unique to Saskatchewan over other parts of Canada is that the boundary between the Cretaceous (K) and Paleogene (Pg) is visible in several locations. The K-Pg boundary is important because this is the time period that represents when non-avian dinosaurs went extinct, and these sections can help us understand exactly what happened to cause that extinction by looking at the chemistry of the section. Saskatchewan is actually one of the best places worldwide to study the boundary.
145. Several palaeontologists work out of Saskatchewan. Some of these include Ryan McKellar, Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, who specialises on amber and insects found in amber; Emily Bamforth, who works with a lot of micro-vertebrate sites (areas with lots of small pieces of bone or small bones rather than typical large dinosaur skeletons) in addition to traditional vertebrate fossils from the Cretaceous of Saskatchewan, based in Eastend as a curatorial assistant; and Tim Tokaryk, Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, also based out of Eastend. Tim focuses on telling the story of Cretaceous Saskatchewan, which doesn’t get as much notice as the contemporaneous Alberta material, and the more recent Tertiary fossils.
146. Saskatchewan is also well known for the fossils from the Tertiary, mostly known for the mammal fossils but also other vertebrates including fish, amphibians and reptiles. This includes the Cypress Hill Formation, which is Late Eocene to Miocene in age, which can be used to understand things like climate change, and biodiversity changes.
147. Yukon is home to some fantastic Ice Age/Pleistocene fossils, representing what we refer to as Quaternary palaeontology. These fossils come from 2 million to 10 000 years ago, including animals such as mammoths, mastodon, short-faced bears, ground sloths and more.
148. The Old Crow Basin in northwestern Yukon is an extremely fossil-rich area, in a remote part of Canada. With around 150 individual fossil localities in the basin, it has yielded tens of thousands of Ice Aged fossils, ranging from small rodents to giant mammoths. Other Yukon localities include Bluefish Caves, Dawson City, and Thistle Creek.
149. The Yukon palaeontologist position goes to Grant Zazula, who works for the Yukon government. His work focuses on understanding and documenting the Pleistocene environments of Yukon, and also understanding early human occupation of Beringia, as some of the earliest human sites in Canada are found at Bluefish Caves.
150. Canada has amazing palaeontology – fossils range from the earliest potential organisms, up to the most recent ice age; fossils can be found in every province and territory; there are tons of places you can go to learn about palaeontology in Canada; and we have hundreds of palaeontologists both in Canada and abroad (I didn’t even talk about Canadian palaeos out of Canada because there are just too many of us!). It is truly one of the best countries in terms of palaeontology, and I’m so proud to be part of the Canadian palaeontology community. We are every growing, and have a newly minted Canadian Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, and will hopefully continue to grow!
Thanks to everyone who has helped me out throughout this series, and I hope that you have all learned something new about Canadian palaeo, whether it’s a fossil you didn’t know you could find here, or a museum you hadn’t heard of that you want to visit. Happy 150th birthday, Canada!