Royal Alberta Museum
visitors since 1967


Chris Jass (Curator) and Jim Burns (Curator Emeritus) examine a lower jaw of the extinct American lion (Panthera leo atrox).

Our research collection (over 30,000 specimens) is primarily composed of Quaternary vertebrates collected from Alberta. Fossils collected by staff of the Alberta Research Council prior to 1965, including a large series of Holocene bison, formed the initial basis of the collection. Since that time, field research in aggregate quarries yielded several thousand specimens of more than 20 species ranging from mammoth to muskox to camel to lion and short-faced bear. Other sources of fossils include 22,000-33,000 year old prairie dog burrows preserved in the Hand Hills near Drumheller, where a previously unknown form of prairie dog (Cynomys niobrarius churcherii) was discovered. Approximately 20,000 specimens come from cave sites in Crowsnest Pass (Eagle Cave), on Plateau Mountain (January Cave), and near Banff (Rat's Nest Cave). Fossils from Eagle Cave and January Cave are from a time period that preceded the last major advance of glacial ice in Alberta (ca. 25,000-40,000 years old) while material from Rat's Nest Cave is postglacial (less than 10,000 years old). Fossil deposits are more accessible in the southern grasslands and foothills, much less so in the northern boreal forest region; therefore, most major sites lie in the southern half of the province, that is, from Edmonton southward.

For information on working with the collection, please contact the Curator, Quaternary Palaeontology.