36. Miguasha (1881)


Photo: François Miville-Deschênes/Parc national de Miguasha

Miguasha, on Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 for its fine and rare fish fossils. In fact, the Escuminac Formation at Miguasha is considered the finest assemblage of Devonian-age fishes in the world.

The fossils were first discovered in 1842 by Abraham Gesner, then a New Brunswick government geologist. As there was no potential for coal mining, the site was largely forgotten during the ensuing decades. Then, from 1879 to 1881, a Geological Survey of Canada team including geologist Robert Ells, paleontologist Arthur Foord, and the Survey’s first museum assistant Thomas Weston carried out several expeditions to Miguasha to add specimens to the Survey’s collection. The fossils from these expeditions were studied by McGill University’s William Dawson and the Survey’s paleontologist Joseph Whiteaves who, in 1881, named what arguably became the most famous Devonian fish, Eusthenopteron foordi, after Foord. 

Subsequent excavations at Miguasha have unearthed over 18,000 fish specimens from 20 species, many exquisitely preserved. Other fossils include plants, scorpions, and millipedes, revealing life in a brackish-water estuary 380 million years ago.

Category: Buildings and Places

Decade: 1880s


Cloutier, R., 2013. Great Canadian Lagerstätten 4. The Devonian Miguasha biota (Québec): UNESCO World Heritage Site and a time capsule in the early history of vertebrates; Geoscience Canada, v. 40, no. 2, p. 149–163. doi:10.12789/geocanj.2013.40.008

Weston, T.C., 1899. Reminiscences among the rocks: in connection with the Geological Survey of Canada; Warwick Bro’s & Rutter, Toronto, 328 p. [p. 128]

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