Joggins Fossil Cliffs© Nova Scotia Department of Tourism Culture and Heritage
Approximately 300 million years ago, what is now the eastern shore of Chignecto Bay, on the northern arm of the Bay of Fundy, was a tropical wetland forest located near the equator. Known as the "Coal Age Galapagos," the Joggins Fossil Cliffs provide an outstanding example of the evolution of life on Earth in the Pennsylvanian Period (the “Coal Age”).
The Joggins Fossil Cliffs reveal the most complete record in the world of terrestrial life in the Pennsylvanian “Coal Age” of Earth history. The site includes the world’s most important fossil record of the two iconic elements of the “Coal Age”: terrestrial tetrapods, including the first reptiles and amniotes; and the “coal swamp” forests in which they lived. The origin of amniotes, the first vertebrates to achieve the capacity to reproduce on land, was one of the most significant events in the history of life on Earth, and this evolutionary milestone is first recorded with certainty in the fossils at Joggins. The cliffs, continually exposed by the world’s highest tides, and the approximately 200 fossilized species of animals and plants found there have long been and continue to be a cornerstone in the development of our understanding of the evolution of life and Earth’s history.
Rich coal deposits drew miners to Joggins from the 17th century on. The Joggins site has been studied by geologists for well over 150 years and discoveries made here have helped shape our understanding of evolution and geology. Sir Charles Lyell, known as the father of modern geology, explored the cliffs at Joggins in 1842 and 1852 with Nova Scotia-born Sir William Dawson, later principal of McGill University. Through them, Joggins found its way into Darwin’s Origin of Species. Abraham Gesner, also Nova Scotia-born, the inventor of coal oil (or kerosene), and Sir William Logan, who established the Geological Survey of Canada, scrutinized the Joggins cliffs as well.
Today the Joggins Fossil Centre, with interpretation of the finest collection of carboniferous fossil specimens in the world and how they shaped our ideas of Earth history and evolution, occupies the site of the old Joggins No. 7 Mine. The cliffs of Joggins are accessible to the public and guided tours of the site are provided.