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Yukon Territory, Canada



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Paleontology and geology

The Precambrian: Precambrian rocks in Yukon Territory record the formation of a supercontinent over a billion years ago, as well as its breakup, which left the territory on the edge of the continent about 750 Ma. Shallow seas covered most of the territory, which were home to some of the earliest multicellular animals. Glaciers developed on land a few times, and they deposited larger rocks and conglomerates along with the usual marine sandstones and shales.

The Paleozoic: In the Early Paleozoic, shallow seas of the continental shelf covered most of Yukon. Deeper waters existed in the basins to the north and southeast and over the continental slope in the southwest. By the Middle Paleozoic, subduction created a series of volcanic islands and began to open an ocean basin in the southwest. This ocean basin and the volcanic islands grew until the end of the era, when the ocean began to close and bring the now larger and more numerous islands on a collision course with the continent. Fossils of animals that lived in these warm, tropical seas record the movement of these pieces of land, as well as some of the plants that grew on them.

The Mesozoic: Yukon Territory was covered by shallow to deep seas in the Early Mesozoic, which were filled with many different invertebrates. In the southwest, subduction finished closing the ocean basin and began to push the volcanic islands up onto the continent. This process continued through the rest of the era, folding, faulting, and metamorphosing rocks, uplifting them, and pushing them to the east. Magma rose close to the surface and formed large granite blocks under many of these rocks. By the end of the era, the last pieces of the territory were added to the continent, and dinosaurs roamed the forests and swamps that covered the territory.

The Cenozoic: In the Cenozoic, subduction ended, and the continental and oceanic plates started sliding past each other. Many areas of the territory were uplifted, volcanoes developed, and large faults formed over Yukon Territory. Several times, glaciers in the southwestern mountains spread down over the lowlands to the north and east. They carved out valleys, scoured the land, carried sediments from place to place, and altered the course of rivers. Some areas in the center and north of the territory were left untouched by the glaciers. These areas provide a record of the great diversity of animals and plants that once lived here, some of which migrated across the land bridge from Asia during glacial periods.

Links to more on Yukon Territory paleontology

Organizations | Education and Exhibits | Resources


Societies and Clubs (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Geological Association of Canada's Paleontology Division: The division's activities, publications, and goals.

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Museums (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre: Learn about Ice Age mammals and early human inhabitants of the Yukon Territory.

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Government Agencies (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Yukon Geological Survey: The YGS' mandate is "... to be the authority and provider of choice for the geoscience and related technical information required to enable stewardship and sustainable development of the Territory’s energy, mineral, and land resources."

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Education and Exhibits

Virtual Exhibits (showing 1 of 1 listings)

The Dawn of Animal Life: While most people know of the dinosaurs from a mere 70 million years ago, very few are aware that the Earth's fossil record stretches over 3 billion years into the past. Using exclusively Canadian rocks and fossils, this exhibit highlights almost three billion years of early evolution when only simple, soft-bodied creatures inhabited the Earth.

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General Reference (showing 2 of 2 listings)

Enchanted Learning's Dinosaur Fossils Found in Canada: A list of dinosaurs found in Canada, by province.

Quaternary Geology of the Yukon Territory: A pdf describing the Quaternary geology of the Yukon Territory.

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