Oldest and OddestWhat do you wonder about fossils?

If you want to be a Paleontologist (a scientist who studies the history of life through fossils), you couldn’t pick a more exciting place to do that than British Columbia.

BC is home to some of the most interesting fossils on the planet.  The history of life recorded in BC is very diverse.  Through time there have been mammoths, dinosaurs, ammonites, ancient fishes, ichthyosaurs, trilobites, and Anomalocaris – just to mention a few.

What is it like being a paleontologist?  Paleontologist’s passions are rocks and ancient life.  You need keen observation skills and knowledge about geology and life of long ago.  Your training involves both Earth science and biological science.

Looking at the oldest fossils in the museum collection – the Ediacaran animal and plant life from about 550 million years ago – you might notice that some appear three dimensional (not flat), some of them are different colours, and some have different shapes and patterns. A paleontologist notices the same things.

Scientists also ask a lot of questions. Looking at one of the Ediacaran fossils in the museum’s collections, you might ask – is that a burrow or track? I wonder what animal was living at that time that could have made it?  Another observation might be the ripples in the rock – is that from water and made by waves or did an animal leave an imprint or actually die right there?

With some of the oldest fossils, it is hard to tell just by looking. Some fossils, such as trace fossils, suggest burrows, tracks, or meanderings made by ancient life. The oldest fossils in the Royal BC Museum collection are some of the oddest looking too. What can you learn about early life on Earth from the Royal BC Museum collection? 



Read about the Ediacaran period of the Precambrian and what makes a specimen a type specimen.



Look at fossils that are more than 500 million years old.



Meet Paleontology Collections Manager Marji Johns (Retired).