In this activity  you will uncover an example of dramatic climate change and its impact on an ecosystem. Use the photos below of some of the fossils discovered by palaeontologists to begin your investigation.

I. Take a look at the photos provided, and do some research to find out where the trees associated with these fossils grow today.

II. The landscape image is an artist’s interpretation of what the environment where these fossils were found would have looked like at one time. Describe the type of environment depicted in the image. What animals can be seen? What do you think the climate would have been like?

III. Refer to a map of Canada (or go to the online Atlas of Canada at http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/topo/map, and locate the place where these fossils were found. The location has the following latitude and longitude: 79.5˚ N, 87.5˚ W.

IV. Look at a vegetation map of Canada and locate the treeline. What sort of vegetation and environment is found at the location which has the above latitude and longitude? Read More

In this activity  you will uncover an example of dramatic climate change and its impact on an ecosystem. Use the photos below of some of the fossils discovered by palaeontologists to begin your investigation.

I. Take a look at the photos provided, and do some research to find out where the trees associated with these fossils grow today.

II. The landscape image is an artist’s interpretation of what the environment where these fossils were found would have looked like at one time. Describe the type of environment depicted in the image. What animals can be seen? What do you think the climate would have been like?

III. Refer to a map of Canada (or go to the online Atlas of Canada at http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/topo/map, and locate the place where these fossils were found. The location has the following latitude and longitude: 79.5˚ N, 87.5˚ W.

IV. Look at a vegetation map of Canada and locate the treeline. What sort of vegetation and environment is found at the location which has the above latitude and longitude?

V. How could these fossils have been found in this location?  Hint: scientists have determined that the fossils are between 40-50 million years old.

VI. Now take a look at the Flash animation. It will show how the earth’s crust (or lithosphere) has changed over time. Carefully scroll from 50 to 30 million years ago and look for clues that might reveal how the climate might have been dramatically altered over a few million years. Observe the changes in the position of the continents during the 20 million year time frame and even up to the present.

VII. What changes can you see which may have had an important impact on climate? Can you come up with other theories as to why the climate where the fossils were found changed so dramatically?



© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Fossilized stump excavated by palaeontologists

This fossilized stump of a Metasequoia tree, also called the Dawn Redwood, was excavated by palaeontologists at the site. This tree is a broad-leaf conifer, so it sheds its leaves in winter.

James Basinger, University of Saskatchewan.

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Leaf litter

This leaf litter from a Metasequoia tree was also found. Modern living relatives of these trees are native to south central and eastern China.

James Basinger, University of Saskatchewan.

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved


Wood Ironstone

The scientific team also uncovered this fossil of wood mineralized by iron.

Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Fossil of Leaf Imprints

This fossil collected at the site shows leaf imprints, including a leaf from a Ginkgo tree. The Ginkgo biloba tree is native to China today, but its earliest relatives were much more broadly distributed, and grew during the era of the dinosaurs.

James Basinger, University of Saskatchewan.

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved


Fossilized Nuts

These are some of the fossilized walnuts found at the site. Where do walnut trees grow today in Canada?

James Basinger, University of Saskatchewan.

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Fossil cones

Another fossil discovery: cones from a Glyptostrobus tree, also known as the Chinese Swamp Cypress. Like its name implies, this tree lived most of its life in water. Today we find Swamp Cypress in southern states like Louisiana and Georgia

James Basinger, University of Saskatchewan.

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Artist's Interpretation of Environment

This is an artist's interpretation of what the environment in this location looked like, based on the fossils found.

Cliff Morrow

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Axel Heiberg Island

Axel Heiberg Island is only 1000 km from the North Pole. Not a tree is to be found for another 4000km to the South. So where did the fossil tree stumps come from?

Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Interactive Palaeo Map

Observe the effects of plate tectonics on the Earth's land masses from 50 mya to the present.

Alex Tirabasso
Julien Racette

© 2007, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

• Explain why different ecosystems respond differently to short-term stresses and long-term changes.

• Show that the interactions among living and nonliving things are regulating mechanisms that exist within an ecosystem.

• State a prediction and a hypothesis based on available evidence and background information.


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