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The natural history of Alberta has defined the
province's landscape, climate, natural resources, and
flora and fauna.
In its 4.5 billion year history, the Earth has changed
dramatically. About 1.7 billion years ago, what is now
Alberta was located along the equator as part of one
large continent. When the continent broke up, Alberta's
western border met the ocean.
Amidst tropical temperatures 600 million years ago, the
earliest forms of life began to develop. As earth's
oxygen supply increased, more life forms developed.
The "Cambrian explosion," or sudden appearance of
new complex organisms, occurred along the coastline of Alberta about 570
million years ago. A variety of fossil organisms
from this period can be seen in sedimentary rocks today.
The Devonian period, dating from 410 to 360 million
years ago, saw Alberta's climate as arid as a desert.
But as the continent drifted northward, temperatures
cooled and land-based plants developed.
Alberta ceased being next to the ocean 140 million years ago,
when volcanic island arcs piled up against Alberta's
coastline, creating what we know as British Columbia.
During this process, a vast basin containing numerous
warm swamps was formed. Sand, silt, mud and other
sediments were deposited into the basin, which, after
millions of years of pressure, would eventually form
huge coal deposits.