Fishing for evolutionary secrets in the Rocky Mountains

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The tiny fish were swimming about the ancient tropical sea 500 million years ago when they were buried alive on the sea floor.

Their squashed remains, uncovered on a windswept mountainside near the B.C.-Alberta border, were held up internationally Wednesday as a “major fossil discovery.”

Scientists say the primitive little fish, called Metaspriggina, gives an unprecedented glimpse of the origin and development of the earliest vertebrates, which eventually led the way to evolution of dinosaurs and mammals, such as humans. Continue reading

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Saving Banff’s grizzlies

The Wild Side, Part Five

Published September 2, 2012

By Margaret Munro

BANFF, ALTA. _ The craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains dominate the landscape, the turquoise waters of the Bow River sparkle in the afternoon sun. But Colleen Cassady St. Clair is not here for the view. She is getting a feel for the increasingly constrained life of grizzlies in Banff National Park.

The University of Alberta biologist and her graduate student Benjamin Dorsey take off their boots, roll up their pants and step barefoot onto an electrified mat straddling the Canadian Pacific Railway track. They jump right back off, yelping as a jolt runs up their legs.

“Just what we’re after – intense, fleeting pain,” says Cassady St. Clair.

A specialist in human-wildlife conflict, she is game to try almost anything to help animals co-exist with people — even if it entails a bit of short-term discomfort for the grizzlies in Canada’s premiere national park.

Wildlife conflicts don’t get much more dramatic, or intractable, than the one involving the iconic bears, an iconic company, and Canada’s most iconic park. Continue reading