A group of five people dressed in rain gear, boots, and hats crawl on a limestone bedrock surface, hammering and levering fossils from the surface.

Palaeontology & Geology

The Manitoba Museum has long been a centre for collections and knowledge related to the Earth and the history of life. Manitoba contains an immense variety of minerals, rocks, and fossils. Geology is responsible for much of the province’s wealth, and our health depends on the geological environment. Palaeontology and Geology at the Museum collects, documents, studies, and interprets geological diversity, helping us to understand the place in which we live. 

We care for thousands of specimens. Some of these have been in Winnipeg museums for a century, and our collection of published type fossils dates back to the 1930s. Significant collections include Manitoba minerals, fossils from the Ordovician Period (445-450 million years old), marine fossils from the Cretaceous Period (70-100 million years old), and ice-age mammals. We also have minerals and fossils of almost every age, from all over the world; these are used for exhibits and comparative studies. 

Palaeontological research at the Manitoba Museum is focused on life from shorelines and shallow seas during the Ordovician and Silurian periods (435-450 million years old). Some of the most significant fossils from that time are found in Manitoba. These include corals and sponges that can be seen in Tyndall Stone in Winnipeg buildings, and rare soft-bodied fossils that we are studying from Churchill and elsewhere. Our significant discoveries in the past 20 years include the world’s largest trilobite and one of the oldest horseshoe crabs. We are currently studying new fossils, including superb fossil jellyfish and unusual arthropods (joint-legged animals). 

A polished brown limestone surface shows white fossil corals. Of the two largest, one is vaguely horn-shaped and one is an oblong circle.

Manitoba Tyndall Stone is quarried at Garson, and contains many beautiful fossils of Ordovician age (about 450 million years old). These include corals such as Calapoecia (upper left) and Grewingkia (lower right). (MM I-3407) Image © Manitoba Museum

On the left, an image of a fossil horseshoe crab is shown in limestone bedrock, with an image of a modern horseshoe crab beside it to the right for comparison.

The ancient horseshoe crab Lunataspis aurora (left; MM I-3989), dating from the end of the Ordovician Period about 445 million years ago, is one of the earliest known members of that group of animals. A modern horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, is shown for comparison. Left-hand image © Manitoba Museum / Right-hand image © David Rudkin, Royal Ontario Museum.

An enormous fossil trilobite, an extinct animal related to crustaceans and horseshoe crabs, more than 70 centimetres in length.

The Museum’s palaeontological collections include the world’s largest trilobite, the type specimen of the species Isotelus rex, which was collected near Churchill in 1998 (MM I-2950). Image © Manitoba Museum

A group of four people wearing fleeces, boots, and backpacks hike toward the sea down a landscape interspersed with large areas of exposed bedrock, and grass and moss.

Geological researchers descend a steep scarp along the shore of Hudson Bay, east of Churchill. Image © Manitoba Museum

A close-up view of the surface of a rock shows beautiful red-brown crystals lying on a glossy grey surface.

Garnet mica schist is a metamorphic rock formed deep in the Earth at very high pressure and temperature. This example is from Chisel Lake, Manitoba (MM M-2313). Image © Manitoba Museum

A weathered and abraded bison skull, jaw, vertebra, and leg bone are arranged on a grey background.

The Ruby Street bison bones were found in 1969 in a sewer excavation, far below the streets of Wolseley, Winnipeg. These bones, which had been deposited in an ancient river sandbar, are parts of extinct bison that lived in this region about 7,500 years ago. (V-2910) Image © Manitoba Museum

Dr. Joe Moysiuk

Dr. Joe Moysiuk

Curator of Palaeontology & Geology

Joe Moysiuk recently completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto and Royal Ontario Museum. His expertise centers on the oldest animal fossils and insights they provide about the evolution…
Meet Dr. Joe Moysiuk