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Tourist finds unique 200-million-year-old fossil

October 8, 2016:


Derek Armstrong was enjoying a relaxing stroll on a beach at Five Islands Provincial Park last month when a fellow tourist showed him a rocky remnant of the Jurassic age.

It was a 200 million-year-old fossilized footprint made by a one-metre tall, three-toed, meat-eating dinosaur, but Armstrong didn’t know that yet. So he snapped some photos of the fossil and took them to the Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro for identification.

“As soon as I showed them, their eyes opened up,” recalled Armstrong, who is from Ontario.

After showing the photos to museum director and curator Tim Fedak, park staff helped recover the specimen, which was brought to the museum for analysis. The footprint was identified as that of an Anchisauripus.

“It’s always cool to see anything relating to dinosaurs or any fossils at all,” said Armstrong.

A trained geologist with the Ontario Geological Survey, Armstrong nonetheless did not expect to find a fossil in the red cliffs lining Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy, which made his dinosaur discovery even more thrilling.

“Footprints are cool because they actually walked there. It’s something tangible left behind. You can imagine them walking across such a beach,” said Armstrong.

“It was pretty amazing.”

Fedak urged people going fossil-hunting on beaches to keep away from steep cliff faces and practise safe navigation, while hailing the footprint’s discovery as an example of public engagement with the museum.

“It’s so important to have the public contact us when they find something they think might be a fossil. Dinosaur footprints like this one provide important information for dating rocks and comparing sites across North America,” said Fedak in a media release Thursday.

The footprint is one of many such finds that have been found in the area. The landscape around Parrsboro’s shoreline holds fossils that are the remnants of some of the earliest dinosaurs in North America.

Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut has footprints identical to that discovered by Armstrong, providing evidence that the same species of dinosaur likely existed in Nova Scotia, New England and other areas of what is now the Atlantic Seaboard.

That’s because when dinosaurs roamed Earth 200 million years ago, they would have lived on Pangaea, the super-continent that began to break up at about this time.

“That’s why the Bay of Fundy got formed as a geological structure,” said Fedak.

He said the bay was created from a lowland area that slowly sank over 40 million years as Pangaea split up, triggering earthquakes as new land masses were formed and others sank below the sea. Today, the bay’s high tides rapidly erode cliffs, making them ideal locations for fossil research.

Finding similar fossils in different parts of the world is evidence that one species once inhabited a single landmass that later split off into separate continents.

“The more evidence that we have, the greater the comparisons that can be made,” Fedak told the Chronicle Herald.

The footprint can be viewed at the Fundy Geological Museum.



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