JOGGINS FOSSIL CLIFFS, NOVA SCOTIA

Lagerstatte at the Bay of Fundy
The Formation of Coal and the Biologically Diverse World
Before the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse

An extremely rich assemblage of fossils—lagerstatte—is exposed for miles along the eastern edge of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Known as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, it was here that Charles Lyell established the connection between ancient forests and the formation of coal deposits and where Sir William Dawson found, in 1859, what is still considered the world's oldest confirmed reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, the progenitor not only of dinosaurs but also of all birds and mammals. It figured prominently in Chapter IX of Darwin's The Origin of Species and was a major part of the great debate on evolution in 1860 at Oxford between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley.

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Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Bay of Fundy (Photo by Michael C. Rygel)

Since the mid-nineteenth century, the locale has been famous for the preservation of ancient tree stumps (Lycopsid) and for the number of tetrapods fossils that have been found, particularly those that were trapped and preserved within the stumps of those trees. It indicates a biologically diverse ecosystem, one that is in great contrast to the sudden shift of climate from hot and humid to cool and arid, a period that is known as the Carboniferous Rainforest collapse. 

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Fossil tree stump and roots of Lycopsid. (Photo by Michael C. Rygel)