PEI

Suspected fossil pops up in harvester

A family from western P.E.I. found a surprise buried in their potato harvest last fall — what appears to be a fossil as old as the Island itself.
Initial examinations suggest this could be a 300-million-year old fossil. ((Lindsay Carroll/CBC))

A family from western P.E.I. found a surprise buried in their potato harvest last fall — what appears to be a fossil as old as the Island itself.

Shelley Williams of Elmsdale thought little of the strange stone, which is about the size of a large potato, when her husband Whitney and 11-year-old son George came into the kitchen with it in the fall.

"They were going, 'Oh, could be this could be a meteorite?' and I laughed every time and said, 'Don't be ridiculous,'" said Williams.

"[I] never thought anything of it."

The family kept the stone as a paperweight for several months before curiosity got the better of them and they took it to the University of Prince Edward Island to see if they could get it identified.

Lisa Steele of the UPEI physics department, also an amateur geologist, doesn't believe it's a meteorite. She suspects it's a fossilized plant.

"For the size of it, it's a little heavier than you'd expect for a rock," said Steele. "Another reason why I think it's a fossil is that its surface is also extremely smooth."

Geologist John DeGrace of the University of Northern British Columbia examined photos of the find, and he agrees with Steele that it is likely a fossilized plant. He suspects it is an ancient relative of the horsetail from 300 million years ago. That predates the dinosaurs, and is about the same age as the Island itself. He said he's found similar specimens along P.E.I.'s south shore, but never from western P.E.I.

A geologist from the UPEI engineering department is now taking a closer look.

now