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On an Ancient Shoreline

The Bay of Fundy is a magical place. Whales can be seen in the deeper water of the Bay during the summer, coming here to feed and play in the warmer water. Along the shoreline the highest tides in the world rise and fall 15 meters twice a day. The Canadian winter storms unleash large waves that crash against the ancient sandstone cliffs. The sandstone cliffs at the at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy erode quickly in this extreme environment. These ancient Jurassic sandstone cliffs contain the bones of Canada’s oldest dinosaurs.

The Early Jurassic sandstone cliffs on the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia.
The Early Jurassic sandstone cliffs on the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia.

A shoreline is a unique and rare environment to be preserved in the fossil record. Finding a shoreline preserved in the geological record is very rare. Along an active, living shoreline, sediment is quickly removed; erosion is the dominant action along a shoreline. Rocks move and grind against each other, polishing their surfaces and destroying fragile shells and bones. The sediment and fragments that remain are quickly washed away by large waves.

An Amazing Discovery

In Nova Scotia a 200 million year old shoreline has been discovered.

The ancient lake shoreline sediments are filled with the scales and bones of ancient fish (Semionotus) and teeth of sharks (Hybodonts). The waves of the ancient lake gathered fragments of scales and teeth into small pockets among basalt boulders on the shore.

Sandstone filled with fragments of Jurassic fish scales and shark teeth. Image modified from Price 2014.
Sandstone filled with fragments of Jurassic fish scales and shark teeth. Image modified from Price 2014.

The ancient shoreline holds other treasures as well…
Bones and teeth of animals from the land!

Shorelines represent the boundary and interaction between water and land. These are two very different environments and ecology. When a shoreline is discovered in the fossil record, it can contain fossils of animals that lived in the water, as well as animals that walked along the shores.

Walking along this ancient shoreline 200 million years ago were the oldest dinosaurs in Canada, carnivorous theropods and plant eating prosauropods and early ornithischian dinosaurs. There were also also some of the earliest mammals, small hairy critters coming to the lake shoreline to drink and scavenge meals among the junction between water and land.

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Upcoming

This summer researchers are returning to this ancient shoreline to collect 200 million year old sediment created along the ancient lake shoreline. Researchers are looking for more fossil clues hidden among the sediment. Teeth and bones of early mammals and Canada’s oldest dinosaurs.

Later this year there will also be a new interactive tool added to the website that will allow you to help with the research. You will be able to help researchers located bones and teeth from among the sediment samples processed in the museum lab by using a new online tool. You can help researchers from the comfort of your own home!

Stay tuned for more details and …Join the Discovery.

Get updates – by Liking the Earthquake Dinosaurs Facebook Page

 

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New Year

The Earthquake Dinosaurs (eDinos.ca) website was created two years ago to provide an opportunity to share information about dinosaur paleontology research work being done along the shores of Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy.  The website has provided an opportunity to share information about new discoveries (like the mammal-like reptile tooth) and share updates about new field work to collect new dinosaur specimens.

During the past two years the website has been used to explore new innovative online educational presentations, including YouTube tours of the field site, and high-resolution (GigaPan) presentations that allow the online community help find new fossils among sediment samples.

 

The dinosaur research in Nova Scotia is important for several reasons.  The dinosaurs found in the Early Jurassic sandstones near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, are the oldest dinosaur in Canada, and some of the oldest dinosaurs in North America.  These prosauropod dinosaurs were herbivores (plant eaters) that survived the large mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period, 3-4 meters in length, and were likely social animals traveling in small herds. From the research done since 1997, new Nova Scotia dinosaur specimens have been discovered in a rich bone-bed of  dinosaurs that were killed and buried together at the same time.  The location of a rich bone-bed of dinosaurs is very rare, and important for research studies. The scientific description of the bone bed specimens was the focus of my PhD research, and formal publication of the findings in peer-reviewed journals is ongoing.

The website is called Earthquake Dinosaurs because of the close association of the dinosaurs with large tectonic faults that cut through the sandstone and bone. When these dinosaurs walked across the landscape 200 million years ago, the supercontinent Pangaea was just starting to break apart, causing continent sized fractures in the earths crust. These fractures (faults) developed by monumental earthquakes, the scale of which are hard to imagine.  The evidence of the earthquake faults are still visible in the rocks, and even the dinosaur bones are fractured by the faults.

Future plans for the eDinos.ca website include adding more detailed information about the geology of rift-basins and faulting, as well as the numerous dinosaur specimens  collected during the past fifteen years and the people involved in supporting the research. Dinosaurs are not studied by one or two people, it takes a small community of dedicated museum staff, university students, and passionate public (you) to volunteer in the field and lab.  As the work continues, there will also be new  new educational resources for students and teachers added to the website.

Wishing a Happy New Year to all of the supporters of the Nova Scotia dinosaur projects.

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Records of Scientific Inquiry

The Earthquake Dinosaurs Facebook page provides new levels of online community engagement.  At the time of writing this post, there are 1938 individuals receiving updates when new steps have been taken research projects.  In a year’s time that number might become much larger (10,000 or more). The global Facebook audience widens the opportunity for social engagement with natural history research programs.

Earthquake Dinosaurs Updates provide information about ongoing Jurassic Paleontology research projects as examples of scientific inquiry and museum-based natural history research.

The Triassic-Jurassic boundary (geological time-period) is of interest from ecological and evolutionary perspectives.

  • During this time the ancient supercontinent Pangaea ruptures to form the continents of today; earthquakes and tectonic plates as evolving earth,
  • continental sized magma comes to the surface (Central Atlantic Magmatic Province),
  • a supergreenhouse environment from rapid CO2 (from basalt magma) and methane increase in atmosphere.
  • end-Triassic global mass extinction followed by Early Jurassic recovery; Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Mammals.

The skeletons of Canada’s oldest dinosaurs and primitive mammal-like reptiles are preserved in the sandstone cliffs that line the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.  The Earthquake Dinosaurs site provides an opportunity for public to… join in the discovery.

Check back again in the future to see the final digital presentation of some scientifically important specimens.  Let us know when you have questions about anything you see.