300M-year-old millipede fossil from Joggins may be new species
Fossil from Joggins Fossil Cliffs on Bay of Fundy studied to see if it is never-before-seen species
Paleontologist Melissa Grey hopes a chance discovery by a park visitor at Joggins Fossil Cliffs in Nova Scotia will lead to the naming of a new species of centipede.
Joggins Fossil Cliffs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses nearly 15 kilometres of cliffs along the Bay of Fundy, containing fossils of plants and animals from the Pennsylvanian Coal Age, more than 300 million years ago.
"A visitor found a very large millipede and it was quite exciting," said Grey.
Last year's discovery stood out for its size, so Grey contacted an expert from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who decided to come take a look for himself.
Grey said millipede fossils found at the site are from late carboniferous period and can grow to be two metres long, though the millipede fossils that piqued her interest are smaller, ranging in size from two centimetres to 20 centimetres
"Those are portions, so it's not the entire body. It's just what's preserved," Grey said.
"Unfortunately we in paleontology, we don't always get the entire body preserved so these are just sections of a larger specimen."
Grey brought the fossils to the Mount Allison University chemistry labs in Sackville to help in her search to find out if she has a new species on her hands.
"We coat them in ammonium chloride, it basically makes them white and for that, you need a fume hood and some other lab equipment," Grey said.
"The specific structures of the organism or of the animal become more obvious when you coat them in this whitening powder."
The fossils are now back in Joggins and Grey said Joe Hannibal from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is going to study pictures of the fossil to determine if it is something never seen before.
"It's always exciting when you find something new, and that's what we're trying to determine," said Grey.