Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve

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Map of Newfoundland. Reserve is on bottom right-hand corner of map, on the nearly-an-island Avalon Peninsula

Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve is one of the world's greatest fossil sites. It is part of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada.

Mistaken Point was so named because sailors found it a navigational hazard on the foggy tip of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. The site is on Canada's Tentative List for proposed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. No-one can visit the fossil site without an official guide; collecting actual fossils may not be done.

The fossils[change | edit source]

The fossils are in Mistaken Point's tilted and faulted mudstone and sandstone. They are exposed, visible on the surface. They are part of the Ediacaran biota, the oldest complex (multicellular) life forms. The Ediacaran is the last period in the Proterozoic eon. They date to 579 to 542 million years ago, when all life was in the sea.

The Reserve is the only place in the world where you can see a 565-million-year-old sea floor which preserves the ecology of these ancient deep sea communities.[1]

This lagerstätte includes over 30 types of ancient creatures, most of them extinct groups unknown in our modern world.

The palaeoecology[change | edit source]

The creatures lived on the bottom of a deep ocean, below the depths that light could reach. What is now Newfoundland was then between latitudes 40°–65° South.

The imprints of the soft-bodied animals were preserved in place on the muddy sea floor when they were suddenly buried by repeated volcanic ash-falls. The ash (tuff) layers contain zircon, which makes it possible for geologists to accurately date the fossil layers by radiometric dating. Fossils of similar age are found in Russia and Australia, but the variety found at Mistaken Point make the site unique.[1]

Related pages[change | edit source]

References[change | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland and Labrador, Dept. of Environment and Conservation