This week, I’m going to introduce you to the 3rd of 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites based on palaeontology that are found in Canada, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Starting at 70/150:
70. Joggins Fossil Cliffs is located on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, where more than 15 km of fossil-bearing cliffs and coastline are exposed.
71. The scientific importance of these cliffs has been known since the 1800’s, when people like Charles Lyell, the father of modern geology, recognised the impressiveness of the sight. It finally received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008.
72. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs represent the Carboniferous Period, specifically of Pennsylvanian Coal Age, approximately 310 million years ago, a time known for coal-swamps and the beginning of reptiles.
73. The amazing preservation and scientific importance of the material found at Joggins is related to the large Coal Age tree stumps which are preserved in situ (in the same position as they would have been in life). These giant lycopsid (club moss) trees would break during storms, revealing large, hollow stumps. Inside these hollow stumps is a great environment for preserving small animals.
74. Commonly regarded as the earliest definite true reptile, Hylonomus was first discovered at Joggins, named by John William Dawson in 1860.
75. There are at least 195 species of plants and animals known so far from Joggins, including everything from plants including the club mosses responsible for the preservation of the area, to the millipedes representing the first fossils found by Lyell and Dawson, to the early reptiles. This has lead to Joggins being recognised as the most comprehensive look at terrestrial biodiversity for the Carboniferous (specifically the Pennsylvanian time period).
76. The high tides of the Bay of Fundy, which come in every 6.5 hours, contribute to the high rates of erosion at the fossil cliffs, constantly exposing new faces and bringing new fossils to light.
77. The first vertebrate named from Joggins was Dendrerpeton, an amphibian about 100 cm long named in 1853 by Richard Owen, well known early British palaeontologist. Unfortunately, these specimens are often flattened.
78. Joggins Fossil Cliffs is still active in research and outreach today, with a large centre and guided tours of the beaches where you can go look for fossils. However, this region and the fossils are protected, so please don’t remove any of the fossils you find!
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Now just over half way there on our 150 palaeo journey! Hopefully I’ll find the time to keep up with this to make it to 150 for July 1.