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Tainan, Taiwan Zuojhen Fossil Park


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Crusty_Crab

Taiwan's largest museum devoted only to fossils is located at the southern part of the island, near the city of Tainan at the Zuojhen Fossil Park. Most travelers will start their journey in the capital city of Taipei, but Tainan is only a <2 hour bullet train ride away (the bullet train, or high speed rail, is a destination in of itself- a marvel of speed, comfort and efficiency) and a visit to the Zuojhen Fossil Park is highly recommended. For western audiences, fossil park may be a bit misleading. Its not a park as in playgrounds and grassy fields, more like an industrial park, or complex. In this case, the complex includes the museum, natural history education hall, and a local elementary school. The museum showcases fossils from the mid-Pleistocene Chiting Formation, which are abundant in the Cailiao River Basin. Students from the elementary school would find fossils, and bring them to their teachers. which became the nucleus for the collection and is why the elementary school is included in the complex. The new complex was opened in May of 2019. As of late 2019, admission to the museum is about $3.30. 

 

Entrance to the museum:

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Main entrance area with Formosan Sitka deer in the air:

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Overlooking courtyard to the elementary school where you may catch a unicycle(!) routine:

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The first building appears to house the rotating exhibits. At the time of visit, it seemed to be an exhibit on mammoths and Tyrannosaurs. IMG_7629.thumb.JPG.00c9a5318b35a162758a7dab7d2f7bbc.JPG

 

and extinctions:

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Crusty_Crab

There are some skeletons at the top of the stairs above the main entrance hall, including this Pleistocene Teilhard Cattle, but this is just a teaser of things to come.

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The tour then commences to the history building, with exhibits on the local first nations people (aboriginals) in the area, followed by exhibits of significant contributors to paleontological research of the area. This includes the preserved watch, cane and pants (?!) of a celebrated local collector, known as Grandpa Fossil.

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The next building on the tour is the Evolution Hall, which gives an overview of the evolution of life on earth using fossils. Since Taiwan does not have appreciable fossils outside the Cenozoic, most of the fossils here are from elsewhere. 

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A bit of criticism- the fossils in each exhibit do not necessarily reflect the time period, merely an organism that could trace its evolutionary roots to that period. That is why you get crabs (representatives of arthropods) alongside eurypterids. This is problematic itself since true crabs (brachyurans) evolved from lobsters during the Jurassic, but I digress.

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Crusty_Crab

Then we proceed to the cephalopods:

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and a really cool but again, anachronistic diorama which show Opabinia (top right, Cambrian) and Hallucigenia (bottom left, Cambrian) with Orthocones (Ordovician), Ammonites from the Triassic, Belemnites and echinoids from the Jurassic. 

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Just my opinion, but it would be better if these were not in the same exhibit. 

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Crusty_Crab

A well done crinoid exhibit:

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and fishes (with Mesozoic and Cenozoic specimens)

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onto the first terrestrial vertebrates:

 

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Crusty_Crab

And some Carboniferous plants IMG_7866.thumb.JPG.2c1878078babeb21936544bf9a9d995a.JPG

 

and amber

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(note that ants evolved during the Cretaceous, possibly Jurassic)

 

and some Pleistocene plants from Japan (when's the last time you saw a fossil from Japan?)

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Crusty_Crab

The central atrium which you loop around as you descend through the exhibits is pretty neat:

 

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Crusty_Crab

Finally, we get to the highlight of the museum, Building 4, the fossil hall. This has the local fossils from the Cailiao River Basin and is probably where you should spend most of your time.

 

Starting with bivalves and molluscs:

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Crusty_Crab

Carnivorous mammals (bear):

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Tiger:

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The Hayasaka Rhino, national treasure of TaiwanIMG_8560.thumb.JPG.e18b09fcf0170e96ef11a7c5c4600615.JPG

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Crusty_Crab

That's it for Building 4. Next, Building 5, starting with hominid fossils:

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Proboscides

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Crusty_Crab

The sheer number of fossils on display is pretty mind boggling, but the range of fauna that can be found is extensive. It is somewhat reminiscent of the La Brea Tar Pits, which preserves a wide array of life and allows paleobiologists to reconstruct the ecosystem in detail. I appreciate that they try to put as many specimens on public display as possible, rather than hiding them away in the stacks, letting the fossils do the talking. Contrast this to modern exhibits in western museums, which actually exhibit a miniscule fraction of their collection, but are more focused on telling a story using a wide variety of devices and tools. 

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Hi,

 

Curious presentation than to put so many (small) fossils on the wall. Many fossils, the shark jaw is upside down.
 
Coco
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Crusty_Crab

@Coco I noticed they like to display as many fossils as they can. Good catch with the shark jaws!

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Thanks for the tour 

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  • 1 month later...
deutscheben

Thanks for the trip report, those “plush” life reconstructions are fascinating, I’ve never seen anything like them.

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Thank you for this virtual tour! It looks like a really cool museum.

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