Unfortunately, Canada’s 150th birthday came and went (July 1) and I didn’t manage to make it through my 150 things about Canadian palaeontology. Thesis writing got the better of me, and I just couldn’t keep up. However, now that I’m done, I’m going to finish up the series. This post is going to focus on some of the other earlier fossil sites in Canada, with some very early fossils. Starting at 111/150:
111. Just in March this year, a new study came out claiming to find the oldest fossils to date, 3.7-4.3 billion year old microorganisms from the Nuvvuagittuq belt of Quebec. These putative fossils are thought to represent organisms that lived around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, one of the main theories for where life would have began. However, like all claims of early fossils, there is a fair does of skepticism, so these may not last as the oldest fossils.
112. The Gunflint Chert of Ontario represents a rock sequence 1.8-2.2 billion years old, and is characterised by organisms known as stromatolites, which are layered colonies of cyanobacteria.
113. Limestone represents ocean deposits, and are often fully of marine fossils, and the Cobourg Formation limestone of Ontario is a great example. This limestone dates to the Ordovician, and is actively mined at places like Colborne Quarry where the limestone is then turned into cement. Unfortunately it’s not open to the public since it’s an active quarry, but there are some good fossils like this trilobite found here.
114. Another earlier fossil site also in Ontario is the Arkona Shale, from the Devonian. Like most other early fossil sites, it is a marine site, known for things like crinoids, burrows, trilobites, etc.
115. Eramoscorpius is one of the earliest scorpion fossils and was found in 430-433 million year old rocks of the Eramosa Formation in Ontario. This animal changed some of our understanding about the evolution of scorpions – although it lived in the ocean like other early scorpions, it had feet, suggesting that they moved onto land earlier than previously thought. One of these fossils was even found in someone’s stone wall!
116. The Ordovician rocks of Manitoba produced the world’s oldest horseshoe crab fossil, known as Lunataspis. Horseshoe crabs are interesting because even the oldest of them looks strikingly similar to modern specimens, leading some to call them ‘living fossils’.
117. And of course Alberta owes a lot to fossil reef systems, which trapped organisms and oil, leading to a large number of oil rigs in the province. One of these is the Devonian aged Leduc Formation (or Cairn Formation in other provinces). Here you can easily find stromatoporoids, the reef-building colonial invertebrates common during this time, as well as corals, crinoids and foraminifera. The Leduc Formation in particular is extremely porous, one of the main reasons it is so good for oil and gas exploration.
I hope you enjoyed this very brief introduction into some of the other earlier fossil sites in Canada. There’s much more than just Cretaceous dinosaurs!