World’s smallest prehistoric footprints discovery

The tiny Batrachichnus salamandroides trackway found in Nova Scotia. Image courtesy Justin Spielmann

From ScienceDaily:

World’s Smallest Fossil Footprints: Small Amphibian Roamed Earth 315 Million Years Ago

(Sep. 11, 2012) — A new set of fossil footprints discovered in Joggins, Nova Scotia, near Amherst, have been identified as the world’s smallest known fossil vertebrate footprints.

The footprints were found at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. A fossil specimen of the ichnogenus Batrachichnus salamandroides was collected by local amateur paleontologist Gloria Melanson, daughter of Don Reid, the famed Keeper of the Joggins Cliffs, while walking the Joggins beach.

“This was one of the most exciting finds I have ever made and I am very pleased that, along with my colleagues, we are able to share it with the world. Every big fossil find is by chance; it’s all about being lucky and recognizing what you’re looking at. When I saw the very small tail and toes I knew we had something special. I never thought it would be the world’s smallest,” said Melanson.

The footprints belonged to a small amphibian which would have roamed Earth 315 million years ago, a creature not unlike a salamander.

The fossil record at Joggins is most famous for its diverse skeletal record of small tetrapods, dominated by an array of small, primitive amphibians (temnospondyls and microsaurs), and the oldest known reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, entombed within once-hollow fossil tree stumps.

Small trackways of these animals at Joggins are common, but none so small as the one discovered recently. The 48-mm-long trackway preserves approximately 30 footprints with the front feet measuring 1.6 mm long and back feet measuring 2.4 mm long. Study of the footprints by paleontologists at Saint Mary’s University (student Matt Stimson) and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History (Dr. Spencer Lucas) has revealed the trace maker was a juvenile amphibian, similar to a salamander (temnospondyl or microsaur) with an estimated body length of only 8 mm from snout to tail.

Further examination shows the animal began in a walk and later changed direction as it began to run. Speculation could be made that these are some of the juvenile’s first footsteps on land after transforming from a tadpole stage that hatched in a local pond. The change in direction and speed may be interpreted as the animal either becoming startled by a larger predator, or perhaps while hunting some small insects, itself.

Melanson’s fossil is on display at the Joggins Fossil Centre at the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. The fossil is described in a paper by Stimson, Lucas and Melanson in the international scientific journal Ichnos on Aug. 27, 2012. The scientific article documents the significance of Melanson’s fossil discovery and the secrets it reveals about ancient juvenile life in the Coal Age 315 million years ago in Nova Scotia.

See also here. And here.


Canadian wildlife discoveries

This video from Canada says about itself:

This young bald eagle was released outside Windsor, Nova Scotia after rehabilitation at the Hope for Wildlife Centre.

From the Sackville Tribune Post in Canada:

Conservation scientists make interesting discoveries in 2011

Katie Tower

Published on June 27, 2012

SACKVILLE, NB – The team of scientists at Atlantic Canada’s Conservation Data Centre (ACCDC) have had another busy and productive year, discovering several new species of flora and fauna in the Maritimes and gathering data that is essential in helping to protect the natural environment.

“It’s been an exciting year for the CDC,” said Sherman Boates, chair of the Sackville-based conservation centre during the group’s annual general meeting earlier this month.

Through their extensive field work in 2011, the staff not only identified a number of new provincial species records of flower fly in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but also found three plant species, two dragonfly species and a butterfly species never before documented in Nova Scotia. One of those plant species, the Maleberry, was also a new species for Canada and will likely be listed as a federal Species at Risk in the future.

Boates applauded the work of the staff – who have a broad range of expertise in botany, zoology, landscape ecology and forestry – saying their “remarkable amount of knowledge” has really made a difference in the world of conservation.

Botanists Sean Blaney and David Mazerolle made the Maleberry discovery late last summer on a property purchased last year by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust near Springhaven in Yarmouth County.

The Maleberry, a coastal plain shrub, is a member of the blueberry family that can reach heights of 3.5 m (12 feet) and does not produce edible fruit. It is otherwise found in southern Maine and southward through the eastern United States and it joins a suite of 40 other “Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora” species restricted within Canada to the special climatic and environmental conditions of southern Nova Scotia.

Blaney and Mazerolle located a small population of the Maleberry in a swamp on Long Lake.

“It’s one of the best finds we’ve had since I’ve been at the CDC,” said Mazerolle. “It’s a new species for Canada . . . and it’s a good candidate to become a listed species.

During that same trip, Mazerolle and Blaney also found Canada’s third population of the Threatened Water Pennywort, a small population of the provincially-endangered Eastern White Cedar and a large population of Spotted Pondweed, currently under evaluation as a potential provincially-endangered species.

Also last summer, during a plant survey for the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, the botanists discovered an extremely rare plant at Shingle Lake Barrens in Nova Scotia – Bluecurls, a member of the mint family.

“This hadn’t ever been found before in Nova Scotia . . . and it’s quite rare in Canada,” said Blaney. “So that was an exciting find.”

He noted the Bluecurls are now a high-priority candidate for federal evaluation under the species of concern list.

John Klymko, zoologist with the conservation data centre, also kept busy in 2011, continuing his efforts on the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas, a five-year citizen science project that was launched in 2010 to help document butterfly occurrences in the Maritimes. The first two years of the effort has produced more than 6,000 records with 80 different butterfly species documented.

Klymko said in 2011, there were a number of spottings of rare species in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and also documentation of a significant range expansion for one species in particular, the Salt Marsh Copper.

Populations of the Salt Marsh Copper were detected twice in the Cape Breton area last August, the first time the species was documented that far away from its known range of the Gaspe Peninsula, Chaleur Bay, the Northumberland Coast and coastal areas of PEI.

Klymko said the butterfly atlas project, which is the first comprehensive survey of butterflies ever done in the region, just recently received national coverage on the Weather Network, hopefully helping the ACCDC “reach a whole new demographic” of volunteers who want to participate in the initiative.

Klymko also conducted both Dragonfly and Pollinator surveys last summer, identifying new species of dragonflies in Nova Scotia and new provincial records of flower fly in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 26 of which were new to the Maritimes.

Also moving forward with research last year was Sarah Robinson, who works in landscape ecology. Robinson conducted a biodiversity assessment of the coastal dune systems of Nova Scotia, the “first data of this type and in this much detail ever done in the province.”

Robinson collected data from 12 different dune systems and 300 plots within those systems. During her research, she came across a number of rare species, including Umbellate Bastard Toadflax and Slender Flatsedge, and also noted the unique conditions of some of the dune systems which were dominated by Bearberry, a species of dwarf shrub, or lichens. She was also able to document the prevalence of exotic species that were of concern, such as Purple Loosestrife and Scotch Broom.

Whale spouts rainbow, video

This video says about itself:

While on a whale watching cruise in Nova Scotia, it was not until I watched the video much later that I saw the spray of the whale closest to the boat catch the sun and turn the spray into a rainbow. It looks as if the whale is blowing a rainbow out of it’s blowhole.

See also here.