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Tynemouth Creek “Millipedes“

The area around Tynemouth Creek has yielded interesting fossils since first mapped by Abraham Gesner in 1841. He first described the rocks as "new red sandstone” - Permian to Triassic age. The rocks were later described in the 1860s by George Frederic Matthew of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, Loring Woart Bailey, University of New Brunswick, and Sir William Dawson, Principal of McGill College, Montreal as Carboniferous age.

Fossil sites are situated on the Bay of Fundy coast in New Brunswick, almost continuous for about 14 kilometres from McCoy Head in the west, almost to Rogers Head in the east. The late Carboniferous rock that outcrops in tall cliffs along the shoreline, expose a geological record about 314 to 318 million years old. These rocks record the paleoecology of an upland/dryland, alluvial fan environment rather than the more typical and better-understood lowland/wetland environment of the ‘coal age’ ecosystem. Plant fossils are relatively common along the entire coastal outcrop. Recent work since the early 1980s has identified numerous trackways of giant millipede-like animals called arthropleurids. Guy Plint, then a geologist from the University of New Brunswick, discovered the first tracks of Arthropleura while mapping the sedimentary rocks. The footprint trail preserved as a double row of indentations made by the feet, was more than five metres long and wound its way through a stand of fossil horsetail trees.

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The rainforest of the coal age was teeming with plant life, much of which is preserved in fossil form. Over time, fallen plant debris was buried and compressed, forming coal. Levels of atmospheric oxygen were higher than today, possibly as much as 35%, instead of the current 21%. This difference had results seen in New Brunswick’s geology. First, wildfires may have been a more common feature of the forests. Charcoal layers can be seen in many Upper Carboniferous rocks. Second, giganitism in arthropods may have been a result of higher oxygen levels. They may have been able to grow larger since they depend on oxygen to passively enter the body. As a consequence there are trackways of the millipede-like Arthropleura made by animals more than a metre long.