Walchia Fossil Find
I’ve been checking my favorite coastal sites to see how they’re doing after Hurricane Fiona. As predicted, our sand dunes are recovering very well (more on this in a future post, but you can read my last post on that here: https://www.pei-untamed.com/post/post-fiona-sand-dunes). Unlike the resilient dunes, our ancient sandstone cliffs will not recover. But the massive erosion does provide new opportunities for fossil finds.
PEI’s sandstone was formed about 300 million years ago. It carries within it not only a record of the environment at that time, but also evidence of plants and animals that lived then – about 60 million years *before* dinosaurs! One of those plants made this fossil I found recently in western PEI: an ancient conifer we call Walchia.
Walchia is a relative of today’s Norfolk Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), which you may know as a houseplant. Its heyday was the Permian, when our part of the world was in the middle of the supercontinent Pangea and near the equator. The climate was tropical and monsoonal, with alternating periods of flooding and drought. Walchia thrived in this habitat and was the dominant tree of our pre-historic forest, growing to heights of 12 metres (40 feet) and densities of an estimated 1,400 trees per hectare (about 566 per acre, compared to around 80-120 trees per acre in our mature Acadian forest today). In the 1990s, a preserved Walchia forest was found across the Strait in Brule, Nova Scotia giving researchers far more information about this ancient conifer than they’d ever had before.
PEI is fossil-rich and it’s worth keeping your eyes open for them. If you’re interested in seeing some firsthand and learning more about our Island’s geology and fossil history, I highly recommend Prehistoric Island Tours; you can find them here: https://www.prehistoricislandtours.ca/
Prehistoric fossils are another interesting part of PEI untamed!