Preserving the evidence

Studying extinction can help form a more complete picture of events that take place over extended periods of time, including large-scale patterns in the history of life and the earth. The size and scope of the Zinsmeister Collection gives us the opportunity to look at extinctions of single species as well as mass extinctions that wiped out creatures all around the globe.

Seymour Island is one of very few places in the world where you can find the layer of sediments that was laid down at the end of the Cretaceous Period, when one of the most disastrous mass extinctions occurred. This ecological crisis brought an end to the dinosaurs, along with much of the life on earth. This layer contains clues about what happened during this time period, and how it impacted life on Earth. The rocks at the boundary layer preserved traces of chemicals that were in the Earth's atmosphere at the time the extinction occurred, as well as fossilized remains of many animals. Studying the fossils allows us to discover which animals became extinct, as well as when and why they died. They can also be used to find out if there are any factors that cause some species to go extinct while others survive and thrive in the disasters aftermath.

A fish vertebra preserved inside of a ball-shaped concretion.