Museum recreates prehistoric times
He may not be familiar with Dr. Grant from the movie Jurassic Park, but Royal B.C. Museum curator of botany and earth history Richard Hebda still knows his dinosaurs.
And, he knows that, although the River City missed out on dinos by a few million years, it is home to interesting and important fossils.
Kamloops is best known for fossils from the Eocene age, which date back about 50 million years, Hebda said.
He specified the McAbee beds near Cache Creek as a familiar and rich fossil jackpot.
The ancient fresh-water lake beds there have many well preserved fossils of ancient fish, birds, plants and especially insects.
“Probably the best insect site in the entire world of that age,” said Hebda.
The McAbee beds are the best sites, but nearby sites in the Tranquille area, Falkland and Okanagan highlands also contain some scattered remains of fossils, such as various plant material and fish, said Hebda.
He said dinosaur fossils have been found in the Tumbler Ridge and Peace River areas of northeastern B.C. and in southeastern B.C.
“In B.C., we have dinosaurs but not in the Kamloops area,” said Hebda, noting the fossil beds here are just not old enough to contain dinosaurs.
“But, in the past decade, we’ve discovered them in north central B.C., in a whole new dinosaur area, where just a few first signs have been found.”
He said they were found a few hundred kilometres north of Terrace and a tailbone was recently discovered on Vancouver Island for the first time.
That bone would have belonged to an ostrich-looking type of dinosaur, said Hebda.
Albertans used to visit B.C. even in prehistoric days.
Hebda pointed out Albertasaurus lived in northeastern B.C. along with others like the duck-billed dinosaurs.
The museum, which has a new exhibit, Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries, running to Sept. 16, does have some fossils from the Kamloops area but none are featured in the show.
“So, if people come and see the exhibit, they’ll learn how we interpret and understand fossils and that’ll give them a much deeper understanding of the fossils of the Kamloops area and why they’re important,” said Hebda.
Though the fossils from Kamloops may not be of dinosaurs, Hebda said there are still many important things to learn from them about the prehistoric age.
“The Kamloops fossils are so important that they are advancing our world understanding of ancient life, so they may be small but they’re just as important as dinosaurs.”
At the exhibit, people can see what a dinosaur’s environment looked like, as there is an area depicting what is now the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning.
This area, like in Kamloops, has many well-preserved fossils.
Hebda said a variety of plants and animals have been found there, including some well-preserved fossils of feathered dinosaurs.
Some are so well preserved it’s even possible to figure out what colour the animal was.
“The preservation has been so fabulous in these beds in China and all these discoveries have been made, basically, most of them, in the last 10 or 15 years, that we now know that birds are dinosaurs,” said Hebda.
Hebda said the connection was known before, but not the extent it is now.
He said birds today come from a lineage of avian dinosaurs.
“So, when you look up at an eagle, that’s a dinosaur. If you look at a hummingbird, that’s a dinosaur.”
The exhibit explains a lot about how dinosaur skeletons can be used to understand the behaviour and movement of dinosaurs, said Hebda.
Visitors will also get to see things like a model of how tyrannosaurus moved — as well as a life-sized cast of the beast — a chrome skeleton of apatosaurus, a section devoted to dinosaur tracks and even a hall filled with casts of horn-faced dinosaur skulls like triceratops.
“It’s kind of like an up-country hunting lodge with the heads all lined up on the wall, except they’re massive,” said Hebda.
At the end of the exhibit is a section explaining why the dinosaurs died out.
Spoiler alert — it wasn’t just an asteroid.
Hebda said there were a variety of climate-changing factors which combined with the big space rock to create a recipe for the extinction of many prehistoric animals.
More information on the exhibit can be found online at royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.
The museum is at 675 Belleville St. in Victoria and can be reached by phone at reet1-888-447-7977 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets to the museum are $21.60 for adults, $15.75 for students with identification, youth and seniors, free for those younger than five and $61.75 for a family.
There is a separate ticket price for the IMAX film at the museum and another rate for combining the film and the museum exhibitions.