Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pack your suitcase for a 3-billion-year journey

 Hamelin Pool, Western Australia (3 billion years ago)

Visit living stromatolites, pillars of cyanobacteria that are the modern relatives of the planet's primordial slime.
Location: 26.38° S 114.15° E
Find out more: Visiting Shark Bay
Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Canada (575 million years ago)

This rock shelf on the stormy Atlantic coast hosts thousands of bizarre fossils from the Ediacaran period.
The delicate squiggles that look like squashed seaweed or pizza slices are in fact remains of the earliest multicellular life. Guide required.
Location: 46.62° N 53.15° W
Find out more: Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve
Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada (540 million years ago)

Deep in the Rocky Mountains lies evidence of the world's first complex life, reminiscent of beetles and lobsters. Fossils litter the loose shale.
Location: 51.43° N 116.51° W
Find out more: Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation
Zhucheng, Shandong, China (100 million years ago)

The world's largest dino graveyard is right here, and a tourist park is being developed.
Location: 35.99 N° 119.4° E
Find out more: UNESCO Global Geoparks Network   
Gubbio, Italy (65 million years ago)

See the meteorite dust thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
The thin seam of the stuff, discovered by Luis and Walter Alvarez of the University of California, Berkeley, is plain to see in an outcrop near the Bottaccione restaurant.

Location: 43.37° N 12.58° E 
Messel pit, near Frankfurt, Germany (47 million years ago)

See the remains of pygmy horses, bats and the early primate nicknamed Ida.
Location: 49.92° N 8.77° E
Find out more: The Messel Pit Fossil Site: A National Geotope 
Wadi Al-Hitan, Egypt (37-40 million years ago)

The site is famous for its fossil find of a whale with feet, capturing the evolutionary moment when whales were moving from the land back into the sea.
Location: 29.25° N 30.01° E
Find out more: The Encyclopedia of Earth 
Sterkfontein, South Africa (2-3 million years ago)

Delve into the caves of the "cradle of humankind", home to Mrs Ples, the most complete skull ever found of Australopithecus africanus.
It helped prove that the skeletons here were of early humans rather than apes.
Location:26.02° S 27.73° E
Find out more: Maropeng: official visitor centre 

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