The Table Point Ecological Reserve, located on the west coast of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, protects fossils and rocks that document changes to the continental shelf of an ancient ocean.
This was the scene: between 468 and 458 million years ago-a 10-million-year span that's known as the Whiterockian portion of the Middle Ordovician Period-the Appalachian Mountains were beginning to form. At the same time, the Iapetus Ocean (ancestor of the Atlantic) was closing, and the continental shelf was collapsing and breaking apart. A carbonate belt existed along the edge of North American continent, which at the time lay across the equator. In this belt lived the distinctive brachiopods and trilobites now known as the "Toquima-Table Head Faunal Realm."
The 1.16-km2 Table Point Ecological Reserve is one of the type localities of this ancient faunal province.
The massive dark-grey weathering limestones of the Table Point Formation (the lower unit of the Table Head Group) began to form in lagoonal waters that gradually became openly marine as the continental platform was submerged. The uppermost fossil-rich bedding plane represents a shallow bank margin that developed just before the platform was drowned. Above that, the Table Cove Formation-thin-bedded limestones and shales-mark deposition on the deep-water continental slope.
Fossils in the Table Point Ecological Reserve include ostracodes, trilobites, brachiopods, bryozoa, crinoids (sea-lilies), abundant sponges, gastropods (snails), and the spectacular large nautiloid cephalopods whose removal spurred the reserve's creation.
Table Point lies within the Northern Peninsula Forest-Coastal Plain subregion (889 KB). It was created as a provisional ecological reserve in 1986, and fully designated in 1990.
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