Thursday, February 10, 2005

Canada’s Oldest Fossil Forest

Although this is coming a little late, last October the CBC reported the discovery of Canada’s oldest fossil forest.

Ron Pickerill, a UNB Fredericton professor found the fossilized forest of over 700 trees in Norton, New Brunswick while looking for roadside fish fossils with a geology class in 2000. Dr. Randy Miller, a palaeontologist with the New Brunswick Museum later brought in Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang from the University of Bristol to work on the material.

The Mississippian lycopsid forest was exposed during construction of a new section of highway between St. John and Sussex, and the fossil material is visible for about 10 kilometres. Although the rock strata has been turned over on its side, it is clear that the trees, mostly lycopsids of the ProtostigmariaLepidodendropsis-type, were still rooted when they were buried in floodwater silt 435 million years ago.

The full abstract of the article is available here:
Early Mississippian lycopsid forests in a delta-plain setting at Norton, near Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada
By H.J. Falcon-Lang
Journal of the Geological Society, 2004, vol. 161, no. 6, pp. 969-981(13)

This find is of particular interest to me as my mother and her family are from the small town of Norton where this find was made. It’s possible that I crawled over these very rocks as a small boy while visiting my grandparents. I hope that the people involved are successful in getting the area declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

For a nice article on the fossils of New Brunswick by Dave Young from The Saint John Times-Globe and Randy Miller of the New Brunswick Museum, click here