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'Oldest-known fossils' showcased in new Royal Tyrrell Museum exhibit

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Thousands of people travel to Drumheller, Alta., each year to explore the prehistoric, now there's an option to better understand the world's first lifeforms.

Royal Tyrrell Museum's newest exhibit First Life explores life from the beginning of the timeline.

"This exhibit will actually feature some of the oldest known fossils on the planet," said the museum's executive director Lisa Making.

Fossils in the exhibit date as far back as 4.6 billion years and the evolution boom that followed around 500 million years ago. Some of them were discovered in Alberta.

"During what we call the Cambrian explosion, you start to see some of the earliest forms of life on earth, and the earliest structures of animal tree," said Making.

"It's the template of evolution of life on Earth."

There are also interactive displays, hand-on opportunities, and models helping tell the story of how tiny aquatic creatures evolved into everything from dinosaurs to humans.

"This helps us fulfill some of that timeline information and give some light and color and context for some of the most important parts of our evolutionary history."

The province put up nearly $400,000 for the project.

"This new First Life exhibit is just going to continue to drive that tourism to our province," said Tanya Fir, Alberta's minister of arts, culture and status of women.

"It's going to be an amazing experience for people that are regulars to the museum or first time visitors."

While guests will see something new in the space, what hasn't changed is the Burgess Shale diorama, dedicated to the famous fossil site in Canada's Rocky Mountains.

"A lot of people have some amazing memories of being able to step onto that clear glass floor. See these remarkable creatures expanded to 12 times their size in front of them," said Making.

"We managed to actually integrate it beautifully, and actually more effectively into the storyline of both the Precambrian and the Cambrian."

In 2023, the Royal Tyrrell Museum had a record 529,000 visitors from over 150 countries.

The opening of First Life comes the same day the museum kicks off its summer season.

The facility is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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