Big Chill Hits Halifax with Ice Age Mammals

Tourism, Culture and Heritage (To Jan. 7)

January 28, 2009 10:52 AM

It was a time when lions, camels, mastodons and mammoths roamed North America. A remarkable period in Earth's history, when things looked shockingly different as the planet went through the most recent ice age that lasted between three million and 10,000 thousand years.

Ice Age Mammals, a temporary exhibition at the Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer St., Halifax, examines that time when the world was strikingly different. And while it is a look at the past, it also offers valuable perspective on the future.

Visitors during the exhibition, from Feb. 1 to May 31, will be greeted by a 3.6-meter (12-feet) high full-scale replica skeleton of a mastodon, the extinct mammal that once roamed the forests and grasslands of Ice Age Nova Scotia. Upcoming March Break and Wednesday evening public talks will also address the Ice Age theme.

The exhibit presents contemporary and relevant research showing the dramatic effects of environmental change over time.

"This is a timely and relevant display with a strong focus on the challenges of climate change, and the consequences of global warming that caused the extinction of mammals in the past," said museum manager Janet Maltby.

Visitors will enjoy fascinating Ice Age specimens, interactive kiosks and important scientific research focusing on long-extinct mammals. They will discover the High Arctic four million years ago, when it was much warmer than today, with a boreal forest ecosystem. They will also experience Labrador at a time when it was inhabited by bears, three-toed horses, tiny primitive deer (deerlets) and small beavers called, Diploides. Then they will cross more than two millions years to discover the Ice Age, when glaciers covered most of North America and mammoths, mastodons, and other great beasts, lions and camels roamed the grassy plains of the continent.

To complement Ice Age Mammals, the museum has added elements of Nova Scotia's own story of the last ice age by including incredible specimens from the 1991 Nova Scotia Museum mastodon excavation project.

On Oct. 22, 1991, a mastodon tusk was discovered by heavy-equipment operator Stanley McMullin at Milford Gypsum Quarry in Carrolls Corner, Halifax Co. After professional investigation, about 65 per cent of an adult mastodon skeleton and five per cent of a juvenile was recovered from the site. The museum's display will include parts of the mastodon's tusk, jaw, leg bones and molars as well as Ice Age pine cones, snake bones, molluscs and coprolites (another name for mastodon droppings).

"This exhibit presents a rare opportunity to show visitors the results of important field work, research, and extensive conservation to specimens," said David Christianson, manager of collections. "This behind-the-scenes work of museum staff is revealed even in the details of the construction of special display units for some of the sensitive material on exhibit."

One remarkable specimen, on display for the first time, will be a 2.5 centimetre fossilized soft-bodied, painted turtle hatchling. The turtle is an ancestor of a species that still exists in Nova Scotia.

"This soft-body preserved fossil could possibly be the only one of its kind in Canada or all of North America," said Mr. Christianson. "It is special because soft-body parts such as skin hair and tissue usually quickly decompose and do not survive."

Ice Age Mammals is presented in French and English. It was produced by the Canadian Museum of Nature in partnership with the Montreal Science Centre, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.

Admission will be charged, with free admission Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, call 902-424-6099 or visit the museum website at http://nature.museum.gov.ns.ca .


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     The Museum of Natural History in Halifax is offering


visitors a chance to experience a remarkable time in Earth's

history: the last Ice Age.

     A new exhibit -- Ice Age Mammals -- will run from February

1st to May 31st and will include a 3.6-meter (12-feet) high

full-scale replica skeleton of a mastodon and specimens from the

museum's 1991 mastodon excavation project.

     Details on all Ice Age programs, March Break events and

admission costs are available at nature dot museum dot gov dot

n-s dot c-a or by calling 9-0-2 4-2-4 7-3-5-3.

-30-

Media Contact: Brenda Boutilier
              Nova Scotia Museum
              902-424-6513
              E-mail: boutilbr@gov.ns.ca