A set of fossil footprints in Joggins, Nova Scotia have been identified as the world’s smallest - among vertebrates to-date, anyway.
The footprints were found at Joggins Fossil Cliffs. A fossil specimen of the ichnogenus Batrachichnus salamandroides was collected by local amateur paleontologist Gloria Melanson, daughter of Don Reid, the famed Keeper of the Joggins Cliffs, while walking the Joggins beach. Joggins Fossil Cliffs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The footprints belonged to a small amphibian which would have roamed the Earth 315 million years ago, a creature not unlike a salamander. The fossil record at Joggins is most famous for its diverse skeletal record of small tetrapods, dominated by an array of small, primitive amphibians (temnospondyls and microsaurs), and the oldest known reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, entombed within once-hollow fossil tree stumps.
Small trackways of these animals at Joggins are common, but none so small as the one discovered recently. The 48-mm-long trackway preserves approximately 30 footprints with the front feet measuring 1.6 mm long and back feet measuring 2.4 mm long.
“This was one of the most exciting finds I have ever made and I am very pleased that, along with my colleagues, we are able to share it with the world. Every big fossil find is by chance; it's all about being lucky and recognizing what you’re looking at. When I saw the very small tail and toes I knew we had something special. I never thought it would be the world’s smallest,” said Melanson.
CLICK FOR LARGER SIZE. Batrachichnus salamandroides trackway. Credit: Gloria Melanson
Study of the footprints by paleontologists at Saint Mary's University (student Matt Stimson) and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History (Dr. Spencer Lucas) has revealed the trace maker was a juvenile amphibian, similar to a salamander (temnospondyl or microsaur) with an estimated body length of only 8 mm from snout to tail.
Further examination shows the animal began in a walk and later changed direction as it began to run. Speculation could be made that these are some of the juvenile’s first footsteps on land after transforming from a tadpole stage that hatched in a local pond. The change in direction and speed may be interpreted as the animal either becoming startled by a larger predator, or perhaps while hunting some small insects, itself.
Melanson’s fossil is on display at the Joggins Fossil Centre at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. The fossil and the secrets it reveals about ancient juvenile life in the Coal Age 315 million years ago in Nova Scotiais, is described in a paper by Stimson, Lucas and Melanson in Ichnos.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Sexual Fantasies: Threesomes Are Normal, Golden Showers Not So Much
- Aging Brains Aren't Necessarily Declining Brains
- Okay With Disgusting Images? You Vote This Way 95 Percent Of The Time
- Cui Bono? B-corporations And The University
- Resveratrol Reverses Benefits Of Exercise - Study
- 4 Things Needed To Make The Perfect Cup Of Coffee
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Two Steps Toward Better Health
- "Trouble is without citations this article reads like a slew of anecdotes. It begins promisingly..."
- "Do you work for Hank? Or do you just parrot his line of bullshit, and try to legitimize it with..."
- "Yes, that is why I wrote it that way, precisely because they are all watching the thinker...."
- "Sort of. As foreign countries go I have most affection for Great Britain. I have much..."
- Two-faced anti-GMO groups: Block crop and food innovations then claim Big Ag prevents GMO innovations
- Why support erodes for GMO labeling (Hint: It’s not because of spending by Big Ag)
- Genetic “hall of mirrors” with large palindromes, yet smaller: What’s mighty about the mouse
- Gut bacteria an easy scapegoat for disease, but connections hard to prove
- Vermont Rube Goldberg-like GMO labeling law exempts GMO filled natural supplements
- Downside to GMOs: Yields have become so good, they exceed processing capacity
- Cancer cell fingerprints in the blood may speed up childhood cancer diagnosis
- Study of Chile earthquake finds new rock structure that affects earthquake rupture
- Tracking a gigantic sunspot across the Sun
- Massive geographic change may have triggered explosion of animal life
- Scientists replicate the tide with two buckets, aquarium tubing, and a pump
Books By Writers Here