New Brunswick

Rare fossil returns to Nova Scotia

What's 300 million years old, weighs two tonnes, has dwelled in a basement for more than 43 years and just made a 50-kilometre trek across the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border?

What's 300 million years old, weighs two tonnes, has dwelled in a basement for more than 43 years and just made a 50-kilometre trek across the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border?

A two-metre long fossil of the tracks of an arthropleura, a land-bound invertebrate of the Paleozoic era that resembled a large and heavily armoured millipede.

The fossil was discovered by Mount Allison University professor Laing Ferguson in 1964. Since then, its home has been the basement of a chemistry building at the university in Sackville, N.B.

But Wednesday morning, it was transported to its new home at the Joggins Fossil Centre along the upper Bay of Fundy coast in Nova Scotia.

"The fossil itself is rare, especially something this size," said Donald Agnew, a researcher at the Joggins Fossil Institute.

"There are other specimens throughout the world, but to have this piece of Maritime history coming back to Joggins is quite remarkable."

The fossil is estimated to have spent about 300 million years buried in the large coastal rocks hewn out by the bay's powerful tides, known as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, before it was discovered by Ferguson while on a geology expedition.

"A lot of the science that would go into interpreting the significance of the specimen has really evolved over the past 40 years," said Jeff Ollerhead, dean of science at Mount Allison.

"It will be looked at with new eyes and new perspectives," he said. "It could hold some interesting secrets."

An arthropleura may have had as many as 30 pairs of legs and left the tank-like tracks that can still be seen fossilized in the sandstone reefs of the Joggins cliffs.

The rediscovered fossil will be displayed in the lobby of the new interpretation centre in Joggins, which is set to open April 22.

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