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The Champlain Sea

At one time, a sea covered parts of New York, Vermont, Quebec, and Ontario. This Champlain Sea lasted from about 13,100 years ago until 9,000 years ago.

When mile-high glaciers covered New York, the enormous weight created depressions in the land. When the last glacier melted, water from the Atlantic Ocean filled the depression it made, creating the sea. Oceanic creatures lived in this sea until the land rebounded and the sea retreated.

Champlain Sea
The Champlain Sea
 

Animals of the Champlain Sea

Today, beluga whales and seals live in the sea around the Arctic Circle. However, these bones were found on land in New York where the Champlain Sea was once located. Evidence of other animals living in the Champlain Sea include whales, fish, clams, and the ringed seal and the harbor seal included here. 

Beluga Whale

Delphinapterus leucas
Beluga whales are adapted for living in cold water and are currently found in the Arctic Ocean. They lack a dorsal fin that could hit floating ice blocks and have a thick layer of insulating fat.

Beluga Whale
Beluga Whale
12,300 years old (NYSM VP 5095)
12,300 years old (NYSM VP 5095)

Harbor Seal

Phoca vitulina
Harbor seals do not migrate and like areas of water that are free from ice. They prefer familiar resting places on land. This would suggest that, initially, the Champlain Sea did not have much ice when it formed.

Harbor Seal
Harbor Seal
Tibia, about 13,000 years ago (NYSM VP 6)
Tibia, about 13,000 years ago (NYSM VP 6)

Ringed Seal

Pusa hispida
Much different from harbor seals, ringed seals favor resting on ice floes. They have adapted to remaining in contact with ice most of the year. The age of this ringed seal implies the Champlain Sea developed at least some land-attached ice several hundred years after it was created.

Ringed Seal
Ringed Seal
Tibia (left) Jaw (right), about 12,500 years ago (NYSM VP 14334)
Tibia (left) Jaw (right), about 12,500 years ago (NYSM VP 14334)