Nova Scotia

Dinosaur bones found in Bay of Fundy cliffs

Experts find some of Canada's oldest dinosaur bones embedded in red sandstone on the northern shore of Nova Scotia.

The bones would have been "washed to beach sand" if museum staff hadn't found them, curator Tim Fedak says

The dinosaur bones, embedded in red sandstone on Nova Scotia's north shore, are thought to be 200-million years old. 1:46

Experts have found more of Canada's oldest dinosaur bones embedded in red sandstone on the northern shore of Nova Scotia.

The bones — likely of the hip or shoulder — are around 200 million years old, but buried in an ideal place to be discovered, said Tim Fedak, the director and curator for the Fundy Geological Museum. 

"The Bay of Fundy is producing the world's highest tides and eroding these cliffs very quickly," Fedak said from Parrsboro, N.S., Thursday.

"Our museum is here and we're down at the beach very frequently. We can see the bones immediately."

'If our museum wasn't here, they'd be washed to beach sand'

Waves from a storm surge cleared the bones a few weeks ago, Fedak said, and it was lucky museum staff check the cliffs in Parrsboro frequently for freshly uncovered fossils. 

"These bones would be eroded within a month or two," Fedak said.

"If our museum wasn't here, they'd be washed to beach sand."

The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world. In a day, the ocean touches the cliff walls before revealing 1.5 kilometres of beach during low tide. (Supplied by Fundy Geological Museum)

The mostly-white bones are easy to spot though stained pink from the sandstone, he said. They're likely from prosauropod dinosaurs, which were large herbivores from the Triassic and early Jurassic eras.

The museum posted a video about the discovery on its Facebook page Thursday.

Bones from 'the dawn of the dinosaurs'

Fedak and other researchers found similar fossilized bones in that exact area in 1997 and 1998, including a femur, a back bone and several front leg bones. 

That particular area of the Parrsboro cliffs contains a bone bed filled with many such dinosaurs, he said. 

"That mass accumulation is very rare. That's another thing that makes this site so, so special," Fedak said.

There are so many dinosaur fossils because these survived a mass extinction around 200 million years ago when the giant continent Pangaea separated into the continents we know today, Fedak said.

These dinosaur bones will be carefully removed to be examined in a research lab at the museum. (Supplied by Fundy Geological Museum)

"These are Canada's oldest dinosaurs," Fedak said. "They basically start the dawn of the dinosaurs."

More bones likely will be found

The area around what is now the Bay of Fundy sank as the tectonic plates moved. Sand fell on the dinosaurs, carefully preserving them in what are now 100-metre-high red cliffs. Magma from under the moving plates also covered dinosaurs in what is now basalt rocks.

The dinosaurs — which look like small brontosauruses — lived in the area for around 140 million years before they all went extinct, Fedak said. 

A large section of stone will be cut out of the cliff and moved to the research lab at the nearby museum to be examined, Fedak said.

Fedak expects the museum team will find more bones in coming years as the cliffs along the Bay of Fundy continue to erode. 

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