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News Release

Museum palaeontologist tackles sea monsters in new children's book

March 8, 2007-- For Immediate Release

OTTAWA -- Palaeontologist and children's author, Dr. Stephen Cumbaa, has a new kids' book, Sea Monsters, which just came out on March 1, 2007, about terrors of the oceans from ancient and present times, as well as some unusual beasts which fueled folklore and fear.

Sea Monsters, published by Kids Can Press, is a 40-page book geared to 7 to 10-year-olds (grades 2 to 5). Kids will delight in the bizarre underwater beasts that greet them on each page: the large and terrifying ichthyosaurs, megatooth sharks that were bigger than city buses, and the fabled devilfish that turned out to be real. The much-feared Kraken (the ship-destroying monster in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) also surfaces in this book. And it wouldn't be complete without mentioning modern-day monsters, such as the elusive giant squid. Full-colour, haunting illustrations by Margot Thompson are satisfyingly creepy.

"It's fascinating to read the journals of early mariners and explorers, in which they recount close encounters with unknown giant creatures" says Cumbaa, a scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature. "Sometimes we can identify them based on modern scientific knowledge, but not always. Fossil skeletons of truly awesome, gigantic 'sea monsters' have been discovered by paleontologists, but there are still some very real mysteries out there today."

Cumbaa studies prehistoric marine reptiles and fish, particularly those that lived in the former Western Interior Seaway. This inland sea covered much of the interior of North America 60-100 million years ago, including most of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

"Canada is a wonderful place for sea monsters, both living and extinct," says Cumbaa. "We even have our fair share of sea monster legends such as Ogopogo (rumoured to be in Lake Okanagan), and this book introduces kids to the stories of each of these captivating creatures."

Dr. Cumbaa will be signing copies of his book and giving an informal presentation on March 17, 2007, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Canadian Museum of Nature at 240 McLeod Street in Ottawa.

The public can see some of the creatures highlighted in the book - Archelon, the largest turtle ever known (it is the size of a Volkwagen Beetle), plesiosaur and mosasaur - suspended in the Canadian Museum of Nature's new Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, which opened its doors last October. The new gallery, with its hundreds of specimens, two life-like dioramas and Extinction Theatre, is an absolute "must-see".

Cumbaa's science books for children have sold nearly three million copies. Megalodon: The Prehistoric Shark, which he co-authored with Susan Hughes, won a Science in Society journalism award from the Canadian Science Writers'Association in 1998. His Bones Book and Skeleton won the 1993 Parents' Choice Gold Medal. He also wrote the The Bones and Skeleton Gamebook with Karen Anderson and The Neanderthal Book and Skeleton with fellow Canadian Museum of Nature researcher, Kathlyn Stewart.


About the Illustrator

Margot Thompson is a graphic designer at the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as a freelance illustrator. Margot has illustrated a number of children's books, including Tree of Life, which was a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year pick, an NMF Green Earth Award Honor Book and a Skipping Stones Honor Award winner. Margot lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Note to media: Dr. Cumbaa is available for interview. Please contact:

Laura Sutin
Media Relations and Communications Officer
Canadian Museum of Nature
613-566-4793
lsutin@mus-nature.ca

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