Fossil Hunters Touring Exhibition to Visit Islands Museums

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Thursday April 6 2017

Artist’s impressions by Mark Witton of life on land and in a freshwater lake around 360 million years ago – the era the exhibition focuses on.

An exciting touring exhibition will visit both Museum nan Eilean premises this year, in partnership with National Museums Scotland.

Fossil Hunters provides a glimpse of life around 360 million years ago when Scotland lay south of the equator. 

It showcases fossils discovered in Scotland as recently as summer 2015 which were formed from animals believed to be amongst the first vertebrates to live on land.

The exhibition will be open at Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle from 13 April until 26 July.

A special public opening will take place on 12 April from 6pm where Nick Fraser, the Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland will speak about the importance of the fossils on display and how they were discovered. 

All are welcome to this free event and to be the first to see the exhibition.

Until recently no fossil evidence had been found to explain how vertebrate life moved from water to land, leading to a gap in our scientific knowledge of evolution. 

Known as Romer’s Gap, this mystery has been challenging palaeontologists for generations.  

However, after years of searching, the answers have begun to be unearthed.

In 2008, palaeontologist Stan Wood uncovered a number of fossils which began to reveal this key chapter in the history of evolution, including a notable amphibian specimen nicknamed ‘Ribbo’.

Spurred on by these finds, researchers from National Museums Scotland and institutions around the country have been working together to uncover more examples in Scotland.

Objects to be seen include fossils of the Balanerpeton, a five-toed animal adapted for life both in the water and on land, and the Westlothiana, considered the formerly missing link between amphibians and reptiles.

Visitors will be able find out more about how these clues to the past were discovered by watching specially commissioned films and playing a touchscreen game which reveals the techniques that modern scientists use to extract and identify fossils.

Fossil Hunters has been curated by National Museums Scotland, one of the key partners in creating the new museum at Lews Castle and continues the partnership by bringing other elements of the national collection to the Outer Hebrides.

The research behind the exhibition is part of a major grant funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, with research conducted by National Museums Scotland in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Southampton and Leicester as well as the British Geological Survey.

After the exhibition closes at Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle it will then be shown at Museum nan Eilean Uibhist agus Barraigh from 8 September until 2 December 2017.

 

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