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Torn Apart

Colour image of globe showing changing position of continents 256 million years agoBy the start of the Permian Period, the Pangea supercontinent was the dominant feature of global geography. The spine of central New Brunswick was the Appalachian Mountains created as Pangea came together. Flat-lying Carboniferous rocks created plains along the foothills to the east. The erosion of the Appalachian Mountains and highlands deposited sediments in vast alluvial plains and river systems. By the early Triassic Period Pangea began to break up along a rift system that would eventually tear the continent apart and create the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay of Fundy is an aulacogen, a failed rift that was formed during the opening of the Atlantic Ocean.

Colour graphic illustrating the creation of a rift valley.

Rocks of the late Permian and early Triassic age are represented along the Bay of Fundy shoreline from Point Lepreau to Martin Head, mostly red-coloured sandstones that record rivers, lakes and sand dunes built up in the rift valley. Minor late Triassic sedimentary rocks are found on Grand Manan Island, part of the Blomidon Formation. Permian-Triassic sedimentary rocks are located in small pockets all along the Bay of Fundy shore. Continued rupturing and thinning of the crust created fissures that filled with basaltic lava. Triassic columnar basalts are found on the western side of Grand Manan Island at Southwest Head.

Rift Valley forms as an early stage of plate break-up.The Triassic Period begins the ‘Age of Reptiles’, although of course the first reptiles had already evolved by the Carboniferous. The first dinosaurs did not appear until later in the Triassic Period and the Triassic rocks in New Brunswick are too old to record evidence of dinosaurs.  Cryptic reptile footprints have been seen, but so far no vertebrate fossils of this age have been discovered. Rare occurrences of Triassic plant fossils have been found in New Brunswick near St. Martins and at Martin Head.