A few weeks ago I took a day trip to our neighboring province of Quebec to check out Miguasha National Park. I've always wanted to check that place since I've started researching fossil localities.
Miguasha National Park is what the paleontology community sees as the world's most important paleontological fossil record of the Devonian Period. Most of the main fossil fish groups have been found here, including lobe-finned fish, the antecedent of tetrapods. The park's fossil collection has over 5000+ specimens. The importance of these cliffs and the treasures they hold has put this little community on the map, and eventually became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For me, seeing this site was important. I've been going to Joggins quite often and appreciated what information that this place was giving out to the world. I wanted to see how this mirror image of an as important site from a different time period would compare with Joggins's.
Miguasha (red dot)
Me and my friend Ray left Moncton with his little red hybrid Prius early to be able to get to Miguasha at a reasonable time. The drive from Moncton to Campbelton took about 2 hours and a half, and from Campbelton to Nouvelle (Quebec) was about 30 minutes or so. The scenery driving up was gorgeous as you come across the eroded Appalachian mountains and Mount Sugarloaf, an extinct volcano of the same age as the rocks where the fish from Miguasha are found. After crossing the bridge that links the two Canadian provinces, the signage made finding the interpretation center pretty easy.
Eusthenopteron foordi ('Prince of Miguasha')
The star attraction of Miguasha is Eusthenopteron foordi, also called 'The Prince', which made this place famous. Eusthenopteron is a good example of a transitional animal by having this fish well on its way to evolve into tetrapods.
Another well-known abundant animal found in these cliffs is Bothriolepsis canadensis, a placoderm that had bone forming some sort of armor plating mostly on their head and thorax. The specimens I saw at the Park's interpretation center were exquisite!
Silurian fossiliferous limetones (Anticosti Island)
Can you spot the trilobites?
The exhibits didn't just contain fossils from the area, but also from other parts of the province, and other parts of Canada. They currently have some bone from an Hadrosaur that used to roam Alberta during the Cretaceous.
The Devonian Period was called the 'Age of Fish', but there was also life on land, albeit a bit more desolate and mostly populated by arthropods (primitive insects). Plants like this archaeopteris doted the landscape. This fern-like plant was similar to modern trees, but reproduced by producing spores like many other flora of the Paleozoic.
Escuminaspis laticeps was a bottom feeding fish that was on its way out. They went extinct not long after this period of time. They were similar to the modern lamprey, as these were jawless fish.
Bothriolepis canadensis (complete)
My friend Ray with Dunkleosteus (cast), which could grow up to 7 meters long
The Prince of Miguasha, Eusthenopteron foordi
Close up of Eusthenopteron's tail (look at 'em bones)
Eusthenopteron showing off its teeth
After the guided tour of the interpretation center was done, we went down to the beach. High tide was quickly closing in so we couldn't stay on the beach for too long, just enough to have a quick chat on the past and current digs done at the cliffs.
Layers of shale and silt that still hide fish
Miguasha's Interpretation Center
And that was it. We made our back back to New Brunswick with a quick stop in Campbelton for a late lunch. Looking back, it is easy to see why geologists keep coming to this area. Across the bay, the cliffs of Atholville all the way to Belledune have in them a treasure trove of Devonian fossils just as important as the ones found in Miguasha. I feel that I'll be spending a little bit of time up North in the near future.
Till next time, cheers!