Miller Hall Museum of Geology Queen's University Department of Geology W.G. Miller Miller Hall Museum of Geology
Oldest Complex Animal Fossils PDF Print E-mail

Newly discovered fronds of the Ediacaran index fossil Charnia from the Drook Formation of southeastern Newfoundland are the oldest large, architecturally complex fossils known anywhere. Research published in the January issue of Geology by Queen's professor Dr Guy Narbonne and South Australia Museum paleontologist Dr Jim Gehling (previously Queen's PostDoctoral Fellow) focused world-wide attention on these fossils in early 2003.

Fronds up to nearly 2 metres in length occur in the upper beds of the Drook Formation, 1500m stratigraphically below the approximately 565 million year old Mistaken Point fossils. Their position above the glacial marine rocks of the Gaskiers Formation (dated at 595 million years) give paleontologists an important first look at life just after the "Snowball Earth" glaciations (the largest glacial event recorded in the Earth's geological record).

(Figure by Dr. J.Gehling)

Distal tip of a 570-575 million-year old specimen of Charnia wardi from an upper bedding surface in the Drook Formation near Calvert, Newfoundland. Complete specimens are up to 2 meters long. This specimen was discovered by Michael Anderson (Memorial University of Newfoundland).

Charnia wardi

Proximal part of a complete, 1.65 m-long specimen of Charnia wardi from an upper bedding surface in the Drook Formation near Portugal Cove South, Newfoundland. These fronds are 570-575 million years old, and represent the oldest large, complex fossils known anywhere. The species name honours the Ward family of Portugal Cove South, who have been tireless protectors of their town's fossil heritage.

Base of Charnia wardi

Charnia masoni is one of the longest ranging and most widespread Ediacaran fossils. Specimens are known from England, Russia, Australia, and throughout the successsion in Newfoundland. This specimen from an upper bedding surface near Portugal Cove South is 570-575 million years old, and represents one of the oldest large, complex fossils known anywhere.

Charnia masoni

 

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