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Environment and Conservation
September 29, 2009

Collaborative Project Replicates 565-Million-Year-Old Fossil Surface

The Provincial Government and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), in association with Research Casting International, have completed the first phase of a joint venture to produce an exact replica of world-famous fossils at the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. A 70 m2 detailed mold covering of the fossil surfaces has been successfully created. Other partners in this project are the Johnson GeoCentre, Queen�s University and the University of Oxford.

�Creating a replica of this irreplaceable and internationally important surface will serve as a permanent record of world heritage and support ongoing scientific research and education,� said the Honourable Charlene Johnson, Minister of Environment and Conservation. �This is an essential step in protection of the Mistaken Point fossil record and a key addition to our future bid to achieve World Heritage Site status for the reserve.�

Mistaken Point is home to the world�s oldest, largest and best preserved examples of Ediacaran life forms, representing the earliest known complex multicellular organisms in the fossil record. The silicone cast of these fossils will be important for studying early animal evolution and will complement the ROM�s current Mistaken Point collections.

In the next phase of the project, Research Casting International will produce full-size casts that precisely replicate the surface. These will be the largest reproductions of abundant Ediacaran fossils anywhere in the world. The casts are intended for scientific and educational use and for display at the Portugal Cove South visitor centre near Mistaken Point, as well as the future Peter F. Bronfman Gallery of Early Life at the ROM.

�When I first visited the site, I could not believe my eyes,� said Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, Associate Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the ROM. �I was gazing on thousands of exquisite three-dimensionally preserved fossils of large multicellular organisms, dating from about 350 million years before the first dinosaurs roamed our planet. Reproducing a large area of this amazing surface will uniquely convey the spectacular concentrations of the fossils, and show the arrangement of these ancient communities on the seafloor just before they were buried by volcanic ash 565 million years ago.�

Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve was added to Canada�s official list of potential UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2004. The fossil surface has been, and continues to be, affected by various issues such as erosion and weathering that, over time, contribute to its gradual deterioration. The fossil beds in the reserve are also vulnerable to human foot traffic. Because of the steady increase in visitation to the site, access to the fossils is now by guided tour or special permit only.

�The partnerships created to produce this replica of the fossils at Mistaken Point will further promote and educate the world on the rare nature of what we have at Mistaken Point,� said Keith Hutchings, MHA for the District of Ferryland. �Through the appropriate management plan support and exposure given to the site by the Royal Ontario Museum when the cast is displayed there, Portugal Cove South and the Irish Loop will see another exciting tourism draw for the region to support those already in existence, adding to the unique list of experiences we already share with our many visitors.�

The reserve will also be visited by a film crew who will cover the casting project for the Discovery Channel�s Daily Planet show. As well, Atlantic Productions from the United Kingdom are filming part of the casting activities for an upcoming documentary entitled First Life.

Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve is located along the southeast coast of the Avalon Peninsula between Cape Race and Portugal Cove South. It was established to protect a diverse fossil record of the first large, complex multi-cellular organisms, which include the oldest (579 million years) and largest Ediacaran fossils known in the world. The reserve�s fossil-bearing surfaces furnish a unique natural laboratory for the study of early, deep sea communities.

For more information about the fossils at Mistaken Point and for details on the casting project and guided tour schedule, please call the interpretation centre at 709-438-1100, the Parks and Natural Areas Division at 709-635-4520, or e-mail

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Media contacts:

Melony O�Neill
Director of Communications
Department of Environment and Conservation
709-729-2575, 689-0928
Lauren Schneider
Royal Ontario Museum
Keith Hutchings, MHA
District of Ferryland

2009 09 29                                                     9:45 a.m.

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