The Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Statement of Outstanding Universal Value

The classic coastal section at Joggins, Nova Scotia, is of outstanding universal value. It contains an unrivalled fossil record preserved in its environmental context, which represents the finest example in the world of the terrestrial tropical environment and ecosystems of the Pennsylvanian 'Coal Age' of the Earth's history.

About the Cliffs

Preserved in situ at Joggins, “Coal Age” trees stand where they grew, the footprints of creatures are frozen where they once walked, the dens of amphibians are preserved with remnants of their last meal, and the earliest reptiles remain entombed within once hollow trees. Nowhere is this record of plant, invertebrate and vertebrate life within now fossilized forests rendered more evocatively.

Micro tetrapod trackway discovered by Don Reid, still undergoing research. Likely Dromillopus sp.The fossil record includes species first defined at Joggins, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. It was here that Sir Charles Lyell, with Sir William Dawson, founder of modern geology, discovered tetrapods — amphibians and reptiles — entombed in the upright fossil trees. Later work by Dawson would reveal the first true reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, ancestor of all dinosaurs that would rule the Earth 100 million years later. This tiny reptile serves as the reference point where animals finally broke free of the water to live on land. This evolutionary milestone recorded at Joggins remains pivotal to understanding the origins of all vertebrate life on land, including our own species.

With careful observation and interpretation, you may find your own missing piece of time’s puzzle. As you explore the beach at Joggins, remember that every rock holds the possibility of discovery.

Related links

Map of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Artists inspired by Joggins