Saturday, August 13, 2011

Duncan's Report on the Cambrian Age at the Natural History Museum

After I got stung by the bee on Friday, we went back to the Natural History Museum. After we looked at the "Creepy Crawlies" part, we went to another lecture in the same theatre as last time. They have scientists give lectures there nearly every day (we learned that there are around 350 scientists who work at the museum!)

Last time, the talk was about volcanos. This time, it was called "Fossils and Predators". It was about animals from the Cambrian age,when everything in the world lived under the water. Nothing was living on the land yet. There was some ground, but there was no grass or anything living on top. The Cambrian age was 500 million years ago.

The scientist handed out a whole bunch of trilobite fossils for us to look at. She had some that were small, and some that were really big. She also had this computer animation program, that was full of animals from the Cambrian swimming around. She said they don't know that they really would have looked like this, or been these colours. Even the scientists have to make some guesses, because all they have to work with are the fossils.

For the whole time were were there, they were talking about the Burgess Shale. I knew about that because my mom makes us stop there everytime we drive from the lake to Calgary to see our grandparents. It is by Field, down the highway from Tunnel Mountain (where you can see the train going into and coming out of the mountain at the same time). A guy named Woolcot first found fossils there in 1909. He took the fossils he found back to the United States, and they are at the Smithsonian. Nowadays, you have to get permission from Parks Canada to get the fossils. You can click on these links if you want to see pictures of some of the animals. My mom's favourite was Opabinia. It had 5 eyes and a long nose! You can also hear a song called "The Cambrian Explosion Song" here.


  1. Hello,

    I learned that if you want to go on a trip up to the Burgess Shale, you have to put your name in a draw -- like a lottery. Only a certain number of names are drawn, and then those who get to go, go with a guide. You must be fit and able to walk and climb, but it would be well worth the effort, I think.

    I always stop and read the poster-boards at Field, since they remind me again and again about how man has not been on the earth for very long, in comparison to some of the other creatures -- now extinct.

  2. Duncan, I forgot to tell you that the first year I went to University, I took the geology course that was meant for people entering school to become geologists. One of the tests was to identify rock specimens. I used to go and study all of the rocks so that when they were passed around later during the test, I would be able to name all of them. As well, there was a field trip to Banff and the teacher would tell us about the interesting formations along the way.

    Many years later, Aunt Catherine took a course where they did the same trip but with a different instructor. He told them to watch for how the environment near the cement plant had shaped the trees there -- to look for their stunted growth and to watch for the shape of the moss that hangs from the trees there.

    The study of the earth is cool! Wrapping my fingers around a nice smooth rock and having it rest in the palm of my hand still feels good, and especially if I know lots about that rock (and increasingly so, if there is a fossil imprint in it).

  3. I think I have seen some of those creepy crawlies on starcraft!!! Stop the Zerg!


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