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 the Earth 315 million years ago, a creature not unlike a salamander. 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.