Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fossilized Teeth

The Peace River Museum contains in its collection several animal teeth in various stages of fossilization. The oldest of these are the baby Albertosaurus teeth, which are over 70 million years old. The Albertosaurus was a fearsome predator that was closely related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. When found near Peace River in 1979, they were initially thought to be bear teeth, but paleontologist Robin Sissons later correctly identified them in 2011.

Albertosaurus teeth

     An excellent fossilized animal tooth that was found in the Heart River was recently brought in on loan to the museum. It is at this time unclear what species it belonged to, but it bears a striking resemblance to the fossilized bison tooth that the museum has in its collection, due to both its shape and several distinctive markings. The roundedness of the specimen indicates that it was eroded and transported down the river for some distance, though by its excellent preservation we can conclude that it was only recently unearthed from its burial site.

Mystery fossil find

Fossilized bison tooth

     The museum also has a deer tooth and a sheep tooth that are very recent, as evidenced by their perfect shape and white, bone-like luster. This is in sharp contrast to the dinosaur and bison teeth, which have been transformed into rock over vast periods of time.

Sheep tooth (left) and deer tooth (right)

     Perhaps the most exciting tooth in the collection is the massive woolly mammoth molar that was recovered not too far from Peace River and donated by Dr. Sutherland. Woolly mammoths were large, hairy elephant-like creatures that went extinct about 10 000 due to climate change and human predation.

Woolly Mammoth tooth

     Water levels continue to remain low throughout the Peace River region, so new fossil finds will no doubt abound this season. Be sure to get out there and find some of your own before the long winter sets in!

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