Family makes Nova Scotia's "most significant fossil find"
Patrick Keating says he knew his family had found something special while walking their dog Kitty along Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore this summer, but they had no idea they had made one of the province’s most significant fossil discoveries.
It turns out the Keatings and Kitty had found the first rib cage, backbone and partial sail of the sail-back reptile to be found in Nova Scotia.
When they returned to the same spot the following week, they made another remarkable discovery – a skull belonging to the reptile, which researchers have affectionately named “Superstar.”
"We really had no idea how significant this was," said Patrick Keating in a statement released Thursday. "My brother Peter and his kids took the pieces to the Nova Scotia Museum and when we learned what they were, we were truly amazed and so glad we brought them in."
The sail-back reptile is a mammal-like reptile that lived during the late Carboniferous Period or early Permian Period, making it 290-million to 305-million years old.
According to the government release, paleontologists knew the sail-back reptile had once roamed the area as footprints were found in 1994 in Colchester County and isolated bones were discovered in 1845 on Prince Edward Island, but they are calling the Keating’s discovery the “province’s most significant fossil find.”
"This is a great day for Nova Scotians and the world," said Leonard Preyra, the minister of communities, culture and heritage. "These fossils of extinct animals connect us to our past by helping to tell the story of Nova Scotia's and the earth's history. This enriches our lives today and gives us insight for the future."
Paleontologists and other staff from the Nova Scotia Museum, the Fundy Geological Museum, and the Joggins Fossil Institute are working together to unravel the mystery, which also led to the discovery of a dragonfly wing fossil at the same site. Officials say it is one of five discovered in Nova Scotia.
"A new window into our ancient world has just opened," said Deborah Skilliter, curator of geology for the Nova Scotia Museum. "This is just the beginning of the story as we undertake the task of determining exactly what type of sail-back reptile Superstar is, where, and how, it lived and died."
Superstar will be on display for two weeks at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax, starting Aug. 18.
Click here to track the researchers’ progress.