Colour image of globe showing continents

A map of the world during the early Neogene looks almost like a map of the modern world. Although plate tectonic activity has been moving continents during this time North America and Europe have only moved about two metres further apart since the start of the Neogene. However, if you could have seen the Earth from space during the Neogene you would have seen the expansion and contraction of the polar ice, especially in the northern hemisphere.

New Brunswick Museum
New Brunswick Museum

© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour image of globe showing continents

Life on Earth during the last 100,000 years is almost what we see today, but as glaciers advanced across the northern hemisphere ecosystems were drastically altered. Imagine all of New Brunswick covered by glacial ice more than a kilometre thick. At the time of maximum glacial coverage, nothing lived in New Brunswick. As recently as 20,000 years ago there was nothing here but ice.

New Brunswick Museum
New Brunswick Museum

© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour image illustrating total glacial coverage

graphic: Glacial Cover in New Brunswick, 14,000 C-14 years ago (16,800 calibrated ‘calendar’ years)

New Brunswick Museum
New Brunswick Museum

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour image illustrating partial glacial coverage

graphic: Glacial Cover in New Brunswick, 12,000 C-14 years ago (13,800 calibrated ‘calendar’ years)

New Brunswick Museum
New Brunswick Museum

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour image of skeleton and sketch of live mastodon

American mastodon: Mammut americanum (Kerr), Neogene, Hillsborough, New Brunswick, Collector: C. Osman, 1936. Mastodons once roamed the boreal forests of North America. The last of their kind became extinct about 10,000 years ago. Only a few mastodon fossils have been found in the Maritimes. In 1936 the ‘Hillsborough Mastodon’ was found in eastern New Brunswick. This animal likely lived more than 75,000 years ago during the last interglacial, the time between ice ages.

Collector: C. Osman
New Brunswick Museum
1936
Hillsborough, New Brunswick, CANADA
Reconstruction
© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Teeth, American mastodon: Mammut americanum (Kerr)

American mastodon: Mammut americanum (Kerr), Neogene, Hillsborough, New Brunswick, Collector: C. Osman, 1936. Mastodons and mammoths are easy to tell apart based on their teeth. Mammoth teeth have flat ridges, like a modern elephant. Mastodon teeth have rounded or pointed cusps. The name mastodon comes from the teeth, derived from the Greek words "mastos" meaning breast and odont for tooth.

Collector: C. Osman
New Brunswick Museum
1936
Hillsborough, New Brunswick, CANADA
Tooth specimen length 30 cm
NBMG 3906
© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour image of fossilized gray ball

American mastodon: Mammut americanum (Kerr), Neogene, Hillsborough, New Brunswick, Collector: C. Osman, 1936. The ‘Hillsborough Mastodon’ was found with specimens identified as ‘dung balls’ composed of mud and vegetation. They have been analyzed to understand what mastodons ate.

Collector: C. Osman
New Brunswick Museum
1936
Hillsborough, New Brunswick, CANADA
Dung ball specimen width 11 cm
NBMG 3906
© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour image of long, vertical fossilized tooth

Giant beaver: Castoroides ohioensis Foster, Neogene, Indian Island, Passamaquoddy Bay, New Brunswick, Collector: R. and A. Welch, 1998. Giant beavers, weighing up to 200kg, were part of the ice age fauna of North America. They lived from Florida to Alaska.

Collectors: R. and A. Welch
New Brunswick Museum
1998
Passamaquoddy Bay, New Brunswick, CANADA
Specimen length 20 cm
NBMG 10368
© 2012, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Randall Miller discusses the Hillsborough Mastodon

Dr. Randall Miller Research Curator, Geology and Palaeontology New Brunswick Museum

Bones of the Hillsborough mastodon were found in 1936 just outside the village of Hillsborough. They were found near a pond on the property of Conrad Osman. One of the first scientists on the scene was William McIntosh. McIntosh was Curator of the Natural Science Department at the New Brunswick Museum. He identified the bones as an American Mastodon, an elephant like animal that lived in North America until the end of the most recent Ice Age.

This is one of the best-preserved mastodon skeletons in Canada, with about half of the animal recovered, including the characteristic teeth. It was probably a young adult, maybe 15 to 18 years old and it weighed about 8 tonnes.

The animal may have become trapped in a bog leading to its death. One of the unique features of the Hillsborough mastodon are the dung balls found with it. Analysis of these coprolites has determined what kind of plants it was eating during its last days.

Another interesting study looked at the foot bones of the skeleton. Destruction of the bone indicates that our mastodon suffered from tuberculosis, a disease fairly common among these large animals.

New Brunswick Museum
New Brunswick Museum
2012
Hillsborough, New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2013, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Curriculum Outcomes:
  • propose a course of action on social issues related to science and technology, taking into account human and environmental needs.
  • explain various ways in which natural populations are kept in equilibrium, and relate this equilibrium to the resource limits of an ecosystem
  • explain how biodiversity of an ecosystem contributes to its sustainability
  • analyze the impact of external factors on an ecosystem
  • plan changes to, predict the effects of, and analyze the impact of external factors on an ecosystem
  • select, compile, and display evidence and information from various sources, in different formats, to support a given view in a presentation about the ecosystem change
  • communicate questions, ideas, and intentions, and receive, interpret, understand, support, and respond to the ideas of others in preparing a report about ecosystem change
  • propose and defend a course of action on a multi-perspective social issue.
  • gain a greater appreciation and understanding of New Brunswick geological history

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