Article mis à jour le 28 April 2021.
There are several very cool museums in Manitoba, in Winnipeg but also around the city. I haven’t visited all of them yet, but one of my favorites so far is the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center in Morden: it allows you to learn things you didn’t know about fossils in Canada.
Without necessarily being a fan of Jurassic Park or paleontology, it’s always interesting to learn more about the geology and geography of the place where you live. Manitoba hasn’t always been a flat prairie!
3 things I learned while visiting the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center
1 – Manitoba used to be a giant lake
In the Cretaceous Period 80 million years ago, all that is Manitoba today was … water. The climate was tropical – and I’m writing this with minus 5 degrees outside, the tropics seem a long way off.
The Canadian Fossil Discovery Center explains with maps, graphs and reconstructions the geological state of Manitoba over time. Remnants of the lake can be seen today, in the sand dunes of Spirit Sands!
2 – Manitoba was only populated by marine creatures
Canada has its share of dinosaur fossils. But unlike in Alberta, where many have been found, it will be impossible to find dinosaur fossils in Manitoba since it used to be a lake. On the other hand, we have found fossils of marine creatures: sharks, crocodiles and also the largest trilobite in the world: it measures 72 cm and is exhibited at the Manitoba Museum.
3 – The world’s largest Mosasaur was found ound in Manitoba
Bruce is a local celebrity: everyone in Manitoba knows that Bruce is not a politician or a hockey player, but a mosasaur.
I did not know about mosasaurs before visiting the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre and yet I should! The name mosasaur comes from the Meuse, because the very first fossil was discovered in the Netherlands, in Maastricht, in 1780. The fossil wisely remained in the priest’s house until a war with the French in 1815 when it was saved, recovered and exhibited at the Natural History Museum in Paris where it is still today!
Bruce is in the Guinness World Records for being the largest mosasaur on display in the world. Its skeleton is 65-70% complete and it is 13 meters long.
Mosasaurs were prehistoric carnivorous marine lizards related to today’s varanids or monitor lizards. The largest mosasaur currently on public display is Bruce, a 65-70%-complete specimen of Tylosaurus pembinensis dating from the late Cretaceous Period, approximately 80 million years ago, and measuring 13.05 m (42.815 ft) from nose tip to tail tip. Bruce was discovered in 1974 north of Thornhill, Manitoba, Canada, and resides at the nearby Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden.The Guinness’ World Records website
The Canadian Fossil Discovery Center also has a movie theater, with a documentary playing. We can see reconstructions of the habitat of mosasaurs and especially mechanical jaws, it is quite impressive.
Bruce is on display next to Suzy (what a great name for a dinosaur to be honest) and a third mosasaur, with even sharper teeth. Most recently, you must have seen a mosasaur in the Jurassic World movie.
Visit the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre
The Canadian Fossil Discovery Center is located in Morden, approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes south of Winnipeg. The visit is not very long (count 2 hours if you read all the signs and watch the short film) but it is worth it.
You will find the updated rates on their website and the visit costs in 2021 $8.25 per person with family rates available. The museum is open 7 days a week, 362 days a year, so it’s perfect for a winter Sunday.
And if fossils aren’t your cup of tea, you can also observe the museum’s small axolotls!