Locations in Nova Scotia (Part 1): Joggins – a Carboniferous fossil forest

George Burden (Canada) There are three fossil sites of major interest to both professional and amateur palaeontologists in Canada’s east coast province of Nova Scotia. These are the Upper Carboniferous Horton’s Bluff/Blue Beach site, the Parrsboro fossil site at Wasson’s Bluff (which just post-dates a mass extinction event at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary) and the Lower Carboniferous site of Joggins. It is this last site that I will concentrate on. Fig. 1. Map of Canada and the Joggins site. Perhaps, the most famous of these three is the Joggins site, which has just received designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its fossil cliffs, which are the remains of a 300 million-year-old forest, are washed twice daily by the immense Bay of Fundy tides – at up to 15m, the highest in the world. New fossils are constantly unmasked by tidal action, and the trunks of huge Lycopod trees can be seen studding the cliff face. Fig. 2. Bark of Lepidodendron sp. (Lycopod). Joggins became world-famous in 1851, when Sir Charles Lyell and Sir William Dawson discovered the remains of what is, arguably, the World’s oldest reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, tucked inside the trunk of a fossil tree. Dawson guessed correctly that small creatures would become trapped in hollow tree trunks and, indeed, multiple specimens are often found in these locales. Later, Charles Darwin would mention the site in his book, The Origin of the Species, prompting some to call Joggins the “Coal Age Galapagos.” A walk on the beach at Joggins … Read More

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