The Ancient Seas of Niagara
It is said that the Earth was created 4,600 million years ago. Ever since that time, the forces of nature have been masterfully creating an artwork of ever changing landscape and seascape known as Niagara.
Eons ago, the Niagara area the bottom of an ancient tropical salt water sea. Ancient specimens are being found today deep under the soils of Niagara that are still today found at the bottom of our great oceans.
Approximately 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous and the beginning of the Tertiary periods, scientists claim that a giant asteroid collided with the Earth in the area of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. This collision resulted in a massive amount of debris being propelled into the atmosphere on a world wide scale which caused a catastrophic change in the climate and led to the extinction of the dinosaur and many other life forms.
This event continues to be re-examined and debated and will continue to be debated well into the future, however there is little doubt that the climate made a dramatic change to an era of the Ice Age.
Fossils of Niagara
Fossils are the evidence of the existence of life in earlier geologic times, and for the environments in which the organisms lived. Many of the Escarpment rocks contain fossils.
Fossils of the Niagara Escarpment occur in sedimentary rocks. These fossils indicate that they were formed on the floors of ancient seas.
The variety of fossils in the Escarpment rock are evidence of the marine creatures that once lived in the warm, shallow sea that covered this part of Ontario about 450 million years ago. The Escarpment marks the edge of this sea where layer upon layer of deposits were laid down and compressed over the ages into layers of rock.
When the sea eventually drained, rivers flowing over the flat plain eroded the softer underneath layers of the Escarpment. The harder top layer collapsed and formed the Escarpment cliffs we know today. The rocks at the base of the Niagara Escarpment are of Late Ordovician age. Those that comprise the major part of the escarpment are from the lower and middle Silurian. Together
they form sequences of rocks that contain abundant fossil evidence. It is estimated that the upper Ordovician and lower and middle Silurian strata of the Niagara Escarpment represent 20 – 25 million years of geological time.
Approximately 425 million years ago, Niagara was the bottom of an ancient tropical sea. Today fossils from that era can be found deep in the layers of rock of Niagara. Because of the depth of the Niagara Gorge, many of these fossils have been exposed along the walls of the gorge.
Fossils found are:
Trilobites (Trilobata) – sea floor crustaceans (425-240 million years ago) found in Rochester, Grimsby and Clinton layers of rock
Snails (Gastropoda) – spiral shells of snails found in Silurian rocks
Sea Lilies (Crinoidea) – sea floor starfish (425 million years ago) found in Rochester shale rock layer – still in existence at bottom of Atlantic Ocean
Horn Coral (Enterolasma Caliculum) grew on sea bottom (425-400 million years ago) found in Lockport and Clinton layers of rock
Lamp Shells (Phyla Brachiopoda) – clam like shells, eighty different species found in the Clinton & Rochester rock layers
Nautilus (Cephalopod) – ancestors of nautilus, squid & cuttlefish (425 million years ago) found in Medina and Queenston rock layers
Giant Sea Scorpion
Deep in the vaults of the Royal Ontario Museum lurks a giant eurypterids, also called a giant sea scorpion. From tail to claw, it measures two metres in length. Each claw is the size of a human hand. Giant sea scorpions were major predators 420 million years ago, mainly due to their size. Giant sea scorpions are only found in two parts of the world: Eastern Europe and the Niagara Escarpment, from Tobermory in Ontario to New York.