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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.

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