Joggins Fossil Cliffs
Location: Joggins, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia
Time: 325 to 310 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period
About this Famous Find: The Joggins Fossil Cliffs were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008 for representing the finest example in the world of the Pennsylvanian (Late Carboniferous) period of geological history. Along 14.7 km of rocky coastline, a diverse fossil record of more than 195 species of terrestrial plants and animals are preserved in situ (within their ecological context). Due to the powerful Bay of Fundy tides, the cliffs are continually eroding and exposing new fossils to discover, promoting active research at the site.
The fossil record at Joggins provides evidence of a terrestrial tropical environment with representation from all levels of the food web. Standing fossil forests of lycopsid trees that once grew in wetland ecosystems are continually exposed in the cliff face. Footprints of amphibians, reptiles and giant invertebrates are preserved in silty shales which were once muddy river banks. Preserved in the once hollow trees are the fossil remains of the world’s oldest known reptile, Hylonomus lyelli. The early reptiles at Joggins represent the time when vertebrates fully transitioned onto the land from the aquatic environment with the evolutionary innovation of the amniote egg. The fossil record also includes plant species of seed-bearing ferns, lycopsid trees and giant horsetails; invertebrate species of shrimp, land snails, horseshoe crabs, bivalves, spiders, scorpions, giant millipedes and dragonflies; and vertebrate species of fish, amphibians and reptiles.
The geological record includes seven rock units, containing the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary of the Carboniferous Period. From oldest to youngest the geological formations are the Shepody, Claremont, Boss Point, Little River, Joggins, Springhill Mines, and Ragged Reef Formations.