In Canada’s Nova Scotia, there exists one of the most fossil-rich sites yet discovered on Earth. Joggins Fossil Cliffs (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) has within its layers of bedrock millions of fossils from the Pennsylvanian Coal Age. Fossils of standing trees, the world’s first reptiles, and homes of vertebrates and invertebrates alike are magnificently preserved in the site’s oceanside cliffs. Another recent discovery at Joggins has captured the interest of paleontologists worldwide. Amateur paleontologist Gloria Melanson was walking on the beach at Joggins when she spotted some very small fossil footprints. After analysis (by Matt Stimson, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and two colleagues), the footprints (given the icnofossil name Batrachichnus salamandroides) were determined to be from a tiny amphibian, similar in appearance to a salamander. This little guy, which was probably a juvenile, lived 315 million years ago and based on the footprints was approximately 8 millimeters long – that’s only about equal to the diameter of the largest pearl in your grandmother’s necklace! Its front footprints measured only 1.6 millimeters long, and its back prints only 2.4 millimeters long. In turns out that, in fact, these trace fossils are the smallest fossilized footprints ever discovered to date. The 30 footprints from the yet-unidentified amphibian furthermore show that it started off walking, and then broke into a run. Scientists are still unsure who made the prints and what exactly this amphibian was doing, but further research promises to reveal more about this tiny mysterious creature.

Read the press release at LiveScience.com.

The original study was published in the journal Ichnos.

Published On: October 2, 2012

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