Finding a fossil on Pictou Island

Community Featured Online First Pictou Island Memories

The beautiful shores around Pictou County are splendid areas for hiking, exploring and beachcombing.

One such area, which I hike many times each summer, is the shore of Pictou Island. On one occasion in 1997 I noticed a strange looking rock in the side of the bank. Upon a closer glance I discovered that I was looking at the imprints of a fossil. The features being about (3 X 8 inches) and imbedded at least (1/8 inch) into a rock were very clear. What resembled scales and looked somewhat like a herring fish were clearly visible to sight and touch and I assumed that I was holding some pre-historic fish. Some time later I took this stone to Maritime Museum in Halifax and what follows is the story that I was told.

Geologists have determined that millions of years ago this entire area of Nova Scotia was a mountainous range. Instead of being surrounded by an ocean, many rivers flowed through the landscape. The climate was tropical and much tropical vegetation, which is now extinct, grew in abundance. The unearthed fossil which I had discovered was at one time a leaf from what was called a Lepidodendron or scale tree. The Lepidodendron tree grew in abundance 300 to 360 million years ago and had a pattern of elongated diamond-shaped scars arranged in a spiral around its trunk. Its trunk was about (3 feet) in diameter and its leaves grew to the same dimensions. This prehistoric tree grew to heights of 100 feet. Modern Lycopods are called club mosses and are a much smaller relative of some of the larger carboniferous trees.

A place called Joggins, which is located near Parrsboro in the Bay of Fundy, is famous for its fossil beds. Many large fossilized tree stumps have been discovered there along with smaller fossils of amphibians and reptiles. Footprints of long extinct reptiles and animals are quit visible in that area. The most common being that of a very large animal that looked like an oversized woodlouse or snowbug. These large milliped-like arthropods, know as Arthropleura grew up to 1 x 6 feet). Can you imagine having that crawling through your flower garden?

In 1987 the complete skull and skeleton of an amphibian was discovered in sediment at Joggins. The fossil was thought to have belonged to a large water reptile know as Eosaurus Acadianus which grew to 25 to 30 feet long. I believe this creature might have some resemblance to today’s lizard in appearance. Besides my latest find on Pictou Island, I have found coal and fools gold on the shores but as of yet no reptile or animal fossils.