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Jacquet River Narwhal

Construction of the railroad through New Brunswick during the nineteenth century turned up some interesting discoveries. In northern New Brunswick construction on the Intercolonial Railway uncovered the “Jacquet River Narwhal” near the mouth of the river. J.B. Gilpin first described the specimen in 1874, followed later by G.H. Perkins in 1908, and both published in the Transactions of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science. The bones have recently been sampled for DNA to attempt to confirm the identification. Today narwhal are found in the Canadian Arctic and in waters near Greenland, rarely south of the Arctic Circle.  Radiocarbon dating of clam shells (Hiatella arctica) collected above the fossil bones indicates narwhal lived here more than 12,500 years ago.

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Whale fossils are rare in New Brunswick. Other than the ‘Jacquet River Narwhal’ only a few isolated bones have been found. Most have turned up in gravel pits with little information about their age. Circumstantial evidence, such as the presence of clams known to have lived here at the end of the ice age, suggest the whale fossils are about 10,000 to 12,000 years old. Fossil bones identified as Humpback whale were found in a gravel pit in northern New Brunswick. They might be the remains of a beached whale when the gravel pit was an ancient shoreline 10,000 years ago.