In this activity you will uncover an example of dramatic climate change and its impact on an ecosystem. Use the photos below of some of the fossils discovered by palaeontologists to begin your investigation.
I. Take a look at the photos provided, and do some research to find out where the trees associated with these fossils grow today.
II. The landscape image is an artist's interpretation of what the environment where these fossils were found would have looked like at one time. Describe the type of environment depicted in the image. What animals can be seen? What do you think the climate would have been like?
III. Refer to a map of Canada (or go to the online Atlas of Canada at http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/topo/map, and locate the place where these fossils were found. The location has the following latitude and longitude: 79.5˚ N, 87.5˚ W.
IV. Look at a vegetation map of Canada and locate the treeline. What sort of vegetation and environment is found at the location which has the above latitude and longitude?
V. How could these fossils have been found in this location? Hint: scientists have determined that the fossils are between 40-50 million years old.
VI. Now take a look at the Flash animation. It will show how the earth’s crust (or lithosphere) has changed over time. Carefully scroll from 50 to 30 million years ago and look for clues that might reveal how the climate might have been dramatically altered over a few million years. Observe the changes in the position of the continents during the 20 million year time frame and even up to the present.
VII. What changes can you see which may have had an important impact on climate? Can you come up with other theories as to why the climate where the fossils were found changed so dramatically?