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Incoming!

At the Museum, events often take place in cycles. Of course we have the cycle of fieldwork and laboratory research, a cycle of exhibit preparation followed by installation, and, like many other workplaces, cycles in which there are periods with many meetings, followed by blessed intervals with very few meetings.

What you may not appreciate is that there are also cycles in our dealings with members of the public. There are quiet periods when I might handle about one inquiry a week, and then there are those other times when it feels like hardly a day passes without at least a couple of calls or e-mails asking me to identify fossils or explain geological phenomena. And invariably, when the inquiries heat up, so do the donations.

The past few weeks have been a very rich period for both inquiries and donations. I have identified some very interesting rocks and fossils, and we have received the three superb donations shown here. It is unusual to receive objects having this sort of quality and significance; to receive three within just a few weeks is quite wonderful!

Starfish from the Stony Mountain ...

An Ordovician starfish (asteroid) from the Stony Mountain Formation at Stony Mountain (about 450 million years old)

Fossil starfish are about as rare as Archaeopteryx teeth!  Of course an Archaeopteryx had a lot of teeth, but very few specimens of those teeth have ever been found. It is the same with fossil starfish. I’m sure that there were large numbers of starfish in ancient seas, but starfish are broken up very easily after death, by waves, currents, and scavengers.

This is the first proper starfish we have ever seen from Stony Mountain, even though fossil collectors working in that area have found many thousands of (non-starfish) specimens representing about 100 species (Young et al., 2008). The Museum’s collections also have a Stony Mountain ophiuroid (brittle star) and several crinoids, so this find nicely rounds out the echinoderms from that site.

Ordovician trilobite ...

An Ordovician trilobite, possibly Stenopareia garsonensis, from the Red River Formation (Tyndall Stone) at Garson (about 450 million years old) 

Tyndall Stone is, of course, one of Canada’s favourite building stones. Trilobites have been found in this rock in the past, but examples that have not disarticulated (gone to pieces) are surprisingly rare (Westrop and Ludvigsen, 1983; Young et al., 2008). The example above is not complete, but the tortuous curve between the cephalon (head) and thorax suggests that the body underwent unusual twisting during or after death. Although trilobites, like other arthropods, grew by moulting, I don’t think this is a moult because the free cheeks (outer parts of the cephalon) are still attached, and they tended to be lost when a trilobite moulted.

Pleistocene mammoth tusk from southeastern Manitoba

Pleistocene mammoth tusk from southeastern Manitoba (tens of thousands of years old)

This beautiful mammoth tusk arrived about a week ago. It had only been dug out of the ground the day before, and it was soaking wet!  It is surrounded by towels in this photo because we are keeping it wrapped up so that it dries out very slowly over a period of many weeks. If mammoth tusks and teeth are dried too quickly, they tend to go completely to pieces, and we are trying to keep this one as intact as possible. Mammoth tusks are, of course, common in some regions (such as Siberia and Alaska), but only a few are known from Manitoba, and we are delighted to be adding this example to the Museum’s collection. All mammoth specimens from Manitoba seem to belong to the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), but there are also rare examples of mastodons (Mammut americanum) in the province (see Leith, 1949).

LEITH, EI. 1949. Fossil elephants of Manitoba. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 63: 135-137.

WESTROP, S.R. AND R. LUDVIGSEN. 1983. Systematics and paleoecology of Upper Ordovician trilobites from the Selkirk Member of the Red River Formation, southern Manitoba. Manitoba Energy and Mines, Geological Report GR 82-2, 51 p.

YOUNG, G.A., R.J. ELIAS, S. WONG, AND E.P. DOBRZANSKI. 2008. Upper Ordovician Rocks and Fossils in Southern Manitoba. Canadian Paleontology Conference, Field Trip Guidebook No. 13, CPC-2008 Winnipeg, The Manitoba Museum, 19-21 September 2008, 97 p.

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Graham Young

Curator of Geology & Paleontology

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Graham Young grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick. After doing a B.Sc. in biology at the University of New Brunswick, he switched to geology and did an M.Sc. in paleontology at the University of Toronto. After completing a Ph.D. at the University of New Brunswick in 1988, Graham spent two years in Newcastle, England, studying fossils from the Island of Gotland, Sweden. He moved to Winnipeg in 1990 to do research at the University of Manitoba, and has worked at the Manitoba Museum since 1993.

At the Museum, Graham’s curatorial work involves all aspects of geology and paleontology. He is responsible for building the collections, dealing with public inquiries, and preparing exhibits. Over the years, Graham’s research has become broader in scope, moving from specialist studies of fossil corals, towards research on ancient environments, ecosystems, and unusual fossils such as jellyfish and horseshoe crabs. Most of his current field research is on sites in the Grand Rapids Uplands and elsewhere in northern Manitoba.