Something About Fossils

This article, written by a person who gave his identity as X.Y.Z., was published in the 21 August 1889 edition of the Lethbridge News. I encourage anyone interested to read the full article as I have provided here only excerpts from a much longer article.

Lethbridge News (and other early newspapers) can be found at

I don't know who X.Y.Z. was but I can't help but feel he or she was a kindred spirit -- trying very hard to educate and explain to the public about the geology of the area and the fossil finds. I also imaging X.Y.Z. was even a little bit annoyed that people kept calling Ammonites fish (as you'll see below)

Fossil remains are so numerous in this vicinity, and so frequently being picked up in the river and about the bluffs, that a few notes on the geology of the neighborhood may be found of some interest to the readers of the News.

The formation of the valleys of the Bow and St. Mary's Rivers, belongs to the series of rocks known as the Cretaceous epoch of the mesozoic age -- i.e. a period of geological time, roughly speaking, half-way between the oldest known formations, and those that are essentially modern but still representing the deposits of seas and lakes, whose waters had retreated for many millions of years before man made his first appearance on the face of the earth.

The cretaceous rocks in the immediate vicinity of Lethbridge -- from Kipp, above, to Big Island Bend, below, in the valley of the Belly River, and from Whoop-Up about ten or twelve miles up the valley of the St. Mary's River -- are sub-divided into the St. Pierre, and Belly River series, the line of division between the two being marked by the seam of coal that outcrops at the Galt and Sheran mines, again opposite Whoop-Up, and at various other points. The coal marks the best of the St. Pierre, and the underlying rocks belong to the Belly River series....

From this series [St. Pierre] comes the great majority of the fossils so commonly found in the neighborhood. One of the most characteristic fossils of the mesozoic age is the Ammonite.In broken pieces, covered with the iridescent remains of its shell, and often showing the interlocking of the Yoliated joins of its chambers, which are mistaked as indications of a vertebral column, the fragments of this fossil are commonly shown as 'fossil fish;' or when more perfect, in form approaching a circle, often beautifully marked, where the shell has fallen away, with complicated foliations, it is sometimes gravely asserted to be petrified liver!

The Ammonite was a mollusc and no more a fish than is an oyster....

Allied to the spiral Ammonite is the Baculite. This is a straight shell with similar foliated markings arising from similar causes, but the chambers of the shell, instead of being arranged in a spiral, arranged along a straight line. These Baculites are almost invariably called 'fish' and are found very commonly in conjunction with the Ammonite....

In this same series of rocks, below the Island Bend, remains have been found supposed to belong to a carnivorous Dinosaurian. These reptiles flourished in the mesozoic age, and often attained an enormous size. They are among the largest of known terrestrial animals; the Iguanodon, for example, reaching a length of from 50 to 60 feet and they are particularly interesting as forming an intermediate group between reptiles and birds. It is not at all improbable that the mammoth remains, reported to have been found at Grassy Lake, really belonged to one of these hugs extinct birdlike reptiles and it is very likely that other reptilian remains may be found in the neighborhood, for the mesozoic age was essentially the age of reptiles, which then attained an enormous size, and were numerous on land and in water and in air.

This article also makes me very curious how many fossils were found around here in the 1880s and 1890s and makes me wonder what eventually happened to some of those fossils.

I can't resist, though, mentioning that dinosaurs did not live in the water or in the air -- only on land. Sorry, X.Y.Z., it just had to be said. Those in the water or the air were reptiles, but not dinosaurs.