Dawn of Animal Life
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|Mistaken Point Fossil Assemblage|
Fossil Beds of Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Canada
The Mistaken Point assemblage of eastern Newfoundland is the oldest diverse assemblage of complex multicellular organisms yet described anywhere in the world. Fossils are spectacularly preserved on tennis court-sized bedding surfaces along the sea-cliffs of the Avalon Peninsula. Remains of soft-bodied animals were discovered at Mistaken Point during the summer of 1967 during the M.Sc. thesis research of S.B. Misra of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Misra's extensive website http://members.rediff.com/mistakenpoint documents this discovery and contains copies of all of his publications on the subject.
Queen's University is currently studying the Mistaken Point assemblage, with several professors and graduate students engaged in studies of the taxonomy and ecology of these ancient organisms. This work is a critical part of local efforts to obtain status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for this unique example of early life. Mistaken Point is a protected site, and no fossil collecting is permitted.
When Did They Live?
This close-up of a bedding surface at Mistaken Point shows spindle-like fossils preserved beneath a thick bed of volcanic ash. This ash formed from a volcanic eruption that covered the living community and preserved the organisms as impressions on the top of the underlying bed. Zircons in the volcanic ash have been dated at 565±3 million years old (U-Pb), confirming that these are the oldest diverse Ediacaran fossils known anywhere.
Update: New research in 2002-03 has shown that there are older Ediacaran fossils preserved in Newfoundland. See the Oldest Complex Animals web pages for more information.
The MistakenPoint Fossil Assemblage
Click on the images below to learn more about the fascinating life preserved in the Mistaken Point Fossil Assemblage.