In the past, we've been focusing on very old fossils, mainly from the Mesozoic. This week, we're going to talk about some fossils that are a bit younger, specifically, from the Ice Age. These animals are commonly referred to as the Pleistocene Megafauna, where the Pleistocene is the time period (epoch) that the most recent ice age occurred and these animals lived in (2.5 million to 11 700 years ago), and megafauna refers to the large size of these animals compared to what we see today.
A number of these fossils are very well known, like mammoths, and sabre-toothed cats, but other ones are less well known. Although Albertan palaeontology tends to mainly be dinosaurs and similarly aged animals, there are actually a number of the Pleistocene megafauna fossils that can be found in Alberta. Relatives of modern animals like horses (from the genus Equus, the same genus as modern horses) and Bison are often found in Alberta, as well as mammoth fossils. Mammoth fossils can be found near Medicine Hat, as well as several places in western and northern Canada. Mammoths are extinct relatives of elephants that lived in colder habitats during the Ice Age. They are well known for often having long, curved tusks, which are found commonly in Canada. As mammoths lived in glacial environments, they can often are found mummified, so we know a lot about their biology.
|Mammoth skeleton. Photo by WolfmanSF|
|Megalonyx skeleton. Photo by Daderot|
There are many other megafauna found in Alberta, and around the world, but here was a brief overview and some examples from Alberta and western Canada. I hope you found this brief report interesting!
Jass, C.N., et al. 2011. Description of fossil muskoxen and relative abundance of Pleistocene megafauna in central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Science 48: 793-800.