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redleaf101

Clifton, A Very Good Snapshot Of The Late Carboniferous

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redleaf101

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Someone searching the Maritimes for nice articulated plants would ususally end up being referred to known fossil localities in Nova Scotia such as Sydney, Cape Breton. The ferns and other flora found in the coal rich cliffs of Cape Breton are of exceptional quality, but what if I tell you that there's a location in New Brunswick that yields specimens that matches in quality?

This province has made many contributions to the field of geology and paleontology since Mitchell and Gesner in the 1850s and the days of the Stonehammer Club. There had been a lull for decades, but with the surging in geotourism and the newly founded Stonehammer Geopark, new research has been made on old and new sites alike. One such site is located in Clifton.

Rule of thumb here is that West of Bathurst the rocks get older, and younger East. The sedimentary rocks at Clifton are pretty much around the same time period, late in the Carboniferous (~310 to 300 Mya), matching paleoenvironment.

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Clifton, New Brunswick (circled in red)

As my list of grew longer, Clifton stayed on top of it. When Matt called me and asked if I had any plans that weekend, I suggested that we could head up North. He hasn't been in tha area either, so this was the perfect opportunity to go snoop around.

We left Moncton Saturday morning and headed North for Bathurst. The car ride to reach Clifton took a little over 2 hours. Reaching Bathurst, we took Highway 11 and proceeded North-East. We passed Clifton to get to Stonehaven where there is a road leading to a wharf. I parked the car, got the gear ready, and went down the rocks forming a breakwater to get to the beach. It was a bit tricky and the tide had just started going out.

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Facing South-West, towards Clifton

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Facing North-East, towards Stonehaven

We barely set foot on the beach that we came across these beauties. These tracks were probably made by an arthropod, most likely from a horseshoe crab (limulids). What's interesting is how these animals moved (seems to be more than one animal making these traces in the silty material). We'll have to look further into this, but its obvious that this paleoenvironment was influenced by some sort of salt water body, if these animals were indeed ocean dwelling organisms.

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Parallel prints with tail drag

We carried on and stopped at a few easy accessible spots before having to crawl and tread carefully around slippery seaweed covered rocks.

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Me!

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After a few slips, bruises, bloody scratches, and wet boots, we made it to where we wanted to be. The cliffs are somewhat similar to other familiar sites such as Joggins in Nova Scotia. The strata of sedimentary rock have a marginal inclination of about 5 degrees. What surprised us was that we found some trees in situ, popping out from the cliffs. Several trees we've seen were pretty well preserved, and a couple up to a meter in diameter.

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Matt kneeling beside a big tree!

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Checking for trackways

Within these cliffs are gorgeous ferns and other type of plants belonging to the Carboniferous Period. The plants are found on a light gray shale. There are sections of the cliffs that have talus piled up with lots of plant material.

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Clifton is an interesting site and may yet yield really important information that could form a more detailed picture of the paleoenvironment of the region. The plants, the trees, the terrain, the bodies of water dominating the landscape, and the animals leaving their traces. The information that we were able to gather that day will be shared with the rest of the community.

Clifton has come up a few times in scientific literature, but has like most part New Brunswick, been understudied. We realize that the resources aren't always available, so people like me and you can be the foot soldiers and help the academic community by making these type of discoveries like we did today.

Till next time. Cheers!

- Keenan

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trilobiteruss

Nice area. Always love those trees in place from this area. Cool plants but I especially loved those tracks. Thanks for taking us along on a virtual trip. Great photos!

russ

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Fossildude19

Keenan,

Thank you for posting this.

I am enjoying your posts, as this is an area I will probably never get to visit.

The plant fossils are amazing.

I appreciate the pics and the well documented informative reports.

Thanks again.

Regards,

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RomanK

Really nice fern fronds! And stem! Congrats!

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Wrangellian

Thanks again Keenan for the report - you're not kidding about the quality! Just lying there in the talus slopes, eh? And me here on the opposite side of the continent...

I hope you were able to collect that trackway slab..

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redleaf101

Trackways I've found is what really excites me when I'm in the field. Its the ultimate puzzle in paleoichnology: who the heck made these tracks? =P

If you guys can't come to the East Coast, I'll just have to post more about the area then =)

In New Brunswick, the trackway record was extremely low: half a dozen trackway specimens reported in a period of 150 years!!! Since the past 3 to 4 years, many trackways have surfaced with the help of people like Howard J. Falcon-Lang, Dr. Randy Miller, Martin Gibling, and recently Matt Stimson and myself (In the past 18 months for field work).

We were successful in extracting and collecting trackways from diverse sites, which are now being prepped and studied by the New Brunswick Museum Steinhammer Palaeontology Labs in Saint John.

Oh and yes, collected and reported. We hope that we can bring forth a lot of new specimens to the Museum so we can build on a rich New Brunswick geo legacy. This way we can reconstruct an image of New Brunswick's past.

Cheers!

- Keenan

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redleaf101

Also I do have a few plant specimens collected from the beach. New Brunswick hasn't adopted the same collecting laws as Nova Scotia. Right now in this province it benefits both the scientific community, and the amateur collector. It also makes sense that if something collected would benefit the scientific community, we'd bring it forward willingly. This way you educate the collector, and prove the importance and the need of amateur eyes.

This I'll never get tired of repeating. I just hope other provinces and States see the benefits of this. :)

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AgrilusHunter

Man Keenan, another great post! Those trace fossils are :drool: worthy.

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redleaf101

hehe thanks. I'm gonna post some more shortly from Horton. They're awesome as it shows the arthropod walking, feeding, then resting. Stay tuned!

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Scylla

Also I do have a few plant specimens collected from the beach. New Brunswick hasn't adopted the same collecting laws as Nova Scotia. Right now in this province it benefits both the scientific community, and the amateur collector. It also makes sense that if something collected would benefit the scientific community, we'd bring it forward willingly. This way you educate the collector, and prove the importance and the need of amateur eyes.

This I'll never get tired of repeating. I just hope other provinces and States see the benefits of this. :)

I agree! Love those fossils, they look like negatives of St. Claire.

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Missourian

Beautiful scenery, strata and fossils.

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Carcharomimus

Hi, I know this is an old topic, but I just want to say that I'm very lucky to live at 30 minutes from there! during summer I go collect some fern fossil, unfortunatly I can only collect small specimen, because I can't walk with 50lbs of rocks on me for 2 km hehe.

I did it once for a lepidodendron about 25 centimeter wide, it was only 15lbs, but holding it for so long, under the burning sun, it's not an easy task... It's sad that most of these fossil are so fragile due to there composition and to salt water exposure, freezing etc... I've found lots of decent fossil, but when touching them there was so many invisible fracturation on the rock that most didn't survived when I took them in my hands! Sad...

Here is the Lepidodendron I collected in 2011, it's not from the grey mudstone, it seem to be from the sandstone type of rock, like they used for grinding wheels, but not identical. In fact you guys know more about Clifton sedimentology than I do, so maybe you have some precision!

I did the identification myself using this book "Upper Carboniferous Fossil Flaura of Nova Scotia", it's from the same period of time, but I may be wrong about the specie. I wish I could have a copy of the book originaly made about the clifton formation, a fossil dealer I knew had one and he used it to identify what he was collecting and selling. He had an impressive collection, some huge fern, some specimen were almost 1 meter tall (I precise it's the dimension of the rock, not the fossils on it) Wish he was still here in NB

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And here is a small but very fine fern fossil, as you can see it was in 2-3 pieces, and was glued back together.

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I loved the picture you took from these tracks from horseshoe crab or trilobite, they are fascinating! I hope they were collected and that they get preserved and exposed!

I agree New Brunswick should protect or at least give more importance to its geological history, Clifton may not be as interesting as the Joggins cliff because we didn't found vertebrate fossil, but the flaura is very well preserved and deserve attention. It's like losing a part of our history if we don't take the time to study a decent quantity of fossiliferous materials, who knows the wonders that could be burried there!

I wish I was there when you were going, I would've loved to help you guys,

Edited by Carcharomimus

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JimB88

Those are excellent finds..the level of preservation is outstanding!

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Fossildude19

Very nice finds, Carcharomimus! :wub:

Thanks for posting them.

Regards,

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redleaf101

That is awesome Carcharomimus! Incredible what this area yields right? Who knows how long before we get the chance to find vertebrae in Clifton/Stonehaven. Those specimens that you found are remarkable.

The diplichnites trackways were collected and they are currently residing at the Stoneheimmer Research Lab in Saint John, where they will be subject to a future paper. Its discovery is quite significant in reshaping the paleogeography of the area.

I went to Clifton last Summer at the worse day, it was 40o+C and I could have had a heatstroke, but I managed after not passing out and laying on the grass for 20 minutes. I'm going back very soon but I'm bringing colleagues.

I'll be posting a new Clifton post very soon. The past year was busy but I intend to reimmerse myself and update my blog with my past visits. Plenty of discoveries made!

I'm looking to see if I can enrich the collection at the NBM with either better specimens or new genus.

- Keenan

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