Hockey fans may already be aware that giant saber-toothed cats once roamed Tennessee. In May of 1971, workers unearthed a prehistoric cave system in downtown Nashville that contained the fossilized remains of Smilodon Fatalis, an extinct species in the tiger family that contained huge fangs. Radiocarbon dating techniques indicated that this specimen was alive around 9,500 years ago at the very end of the last ice age. Today the Nashville Predators feature the toothy prehistoric cat as the iconic symbol of the team each time they take to the ice.
But saber-toothed cats weren’t the only “mega-vertebrates” to inhabit the Volunteer State during the last Ice Age. Herds of wooly mammoths and mastodons, hairy giants that weighed nearly nine tons, also thundered across the region during the late Pleistocene epoch some 12 to 20,000 years ago.
UTC’s Dr. Nicholas Honerkamp, UC Foundation Professor of Anthropology, shows his students a mastodon deciduous tooth when covering the last Ice Age. “This fossil was unearthed in Charleston, Tennessee,” said Honerkamp. “It’s possible that more fossil records are beneath our feet in this area, but because we are located within the Tennessee River valley any remains from that era could be 40 or more feet down.”
While wooly mammoths, saber-toothed cats and giant sloths have been extinct for thousands of years, new ultra-high definition computer-generated imagery brings these massive beasts back to life on the giant screen. “Titans of the Last Ice Age 3D”, opened at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater Oct. 3 transporting guests to the otherworldly frozen landscapes that supported vast numbers of these prehistoric animals.
“Audiences will experience the world of these prehistoric animals with a realism that only this canvas can provide,” said Andy Wood, the film’s producer. “The Pleistocene has been an incredibly popular subject in commercial films and pop culture over the past decade – kids love mammoths! But the historical accuracy has often been lacking. ‘Titans of the Ice Age 3D’ presents a veritable depiction of this fascinating epoch that is both highly entertaining and revealing.”
Filmmakers spent several years researching and scouting numerous locations where Ice Age fossils have been found in abundance. The resulting project vividly explores the prehistoric struggles of survival. “While we recreate early humans and Ice Age animals in a realistic manner, we also visit museums and Ice Age fossil sites like the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and Hot Springs, South Dakota,” said David Clark, the film’s director. “The film entertains by bringing the past Ice Age back to life, but also educates as our audience will learn much about life in the late Pleistocene Epoch and what happened at the end of that period.”
Titans of the Ice Age 3D captivates audiences with a vision of a changing world, a time of new ecological pressures-leading us to consider the possible fates of today’s living mammals. As our climate continues to warm and human encroachment threatens the existence of thousands of species, could the megafauna of our millennia-elephants, bison, tigers be lost to time like their Ice Age cousins? “Titans of the Ice Age 3D” provides a bigger-picture perspective on the relationship between climate, the Earth, its resources and inhabitants, offering a cautionary tale that is more relevant today than ever.
“Titans of the Ice Age 3D” runs approximately 40 minutes and contains some scenes that may be intense for young viewers. Go to: http://www.tnaqua.org/imax/titans-of-the-ice-age for showtimes and to purchase tickets online.
The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder, appreciation and protection of water and all life that it sustains. Admission is $26.95 per adult and $16.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $9.95 per adult and $8.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $32.95 for adults and $22.95 for children. Excursions aboard the new River Gorge Explorer depart daily into Tennessees Grand Canyon. Cruise tickets are $32.00 per adult and $24.50 per child (3-12). Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695.