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THE CANADIAN JOURNAL
No. XXVII.-MAY, 1860.
ON THE DEVONIAN FOSSILS OF CANADA WEST.
BY E. BILLINGS, F.G.S.
Extracted from the Report of the Geological Survey of Canada
for 1860,-in preparation.
THE Devonian Rocks of Canada West consist of portions of the Oriskany Sandstone, Schoharie Grit, Onondaga Limestone, Corniferous Limestone, Hamilton, Portage, and Chemung Groups. The fossils of the first of these formations are about to be published by Professor Hall, in his forthcoming third volume of the Palæontology of New York; and I shall therefore postpone the examination of such as we have from that rock until after the appearance of that work. Under the term Corniferous Limestone, as it will be used hereafter throughout this paper, are included all those rocks which would probably in the State of New York be divided into three groups,-the Schoharie Grit, Onondaga Limestone, and Corniferous Limestone. At any rate, the two latter seem to be in Canada united by their palæontological characters. The Hamilton Shales we classify as a separate formation immediately overlying the Corniferous Limestone. The Portage and Chemung Groups are also distinct; but I shall leave the examination of their fossils for some future occasion.
These rocks are, in Canada West, highly fossiliferous, and in some places even densely crowded with the remains of extinct species of corals, encrinites, molluscs, trilobites, and large fishes. The fossils, however, are for the greater part in so imperfect a condition, that few of the species can be well defined from the collections made thus far, and, on account of the scarcity of good specimens, many years must elapse before anything approaching to a complete description of the whole fauna of the period can be produced. To accomplish this within a reasonable time, will require the co-operation of many local observers, each devoting his leisure hours to the minute examination of all the rocks in the neighbourhood of his residence, and each influenced to do so by the desire of promoting the cultivation of the sciences in this Province. With a number of such men distributed throughout the fossiliferous regions of Canada, the work will advance rapidly. Without some voluntary assistance of this kind, the progress must be extremely gradual, so difficult is it to procure good specimens of most of the species. Few are aware of the importance of long-continued researches in a single locality, or even in a single quarry. I devoted the greater part of the spare time of seven years to the examination of an area of which all the exposed patches of rock, if put together, would not make a superficies of one square mile, and yet its treasures were not exhausted. Since I left, others have entered the same field, and have been rewarded by the discovery of many interesting new facts. There are hundreds of such localities in Canada yet to be explored ; and if there were a good observer in or near each of them, and if all would freely communicate the fruits of their labours, the combined results could not be otherwise than important to science, and highly creditable to the country.
In making collections, the mode of procedure is exceedingly simple. All that is to be done is to examine the rocks, and if they contain fossils, collect them. The specimens should then be sent where the species can be determined. Unless the observer publishes some account of his facts, or (in case he does not feel competent to do so himself) communicates them to some other person who can and will give them publicity, the labour is lost. In the following and other articles to be published in this Journal hereafter, I intend to give figures and descriptions of many of our Devonian Fossils, and hope that they may be, to some extent, useful in assisting the local observer to name his specimens. That he can name all that he may
find, by comparing them with the figures and descriptions, I am well aware, from my own experience, is impossible. There are numerous species concerning which the most experienced practical naturalists would remain in doubt, although assisted in the examination by all the aids that can be drawn from extensive libraries of scientific works. Let no beginner, therefore, feel disappointed or discouraged should he fail to satisfy himself that he has succeeded in naming his specimens correctly from books. These papers will be of some service ; but I shall also be most happy to examine and name (so far as I can) collections from any part of the Province, on condition that I shall be permitted to describe the new forms, and retain, for the Provincial Collection, a specimen of each species of which we have not already examples in the Museum. This would be beneficial to all parties, and greatly promote the advance of science in this country. I earnestly hope, that at least a few of those who reside in the vicinity of fossiliferous Devonian rocks in Canada West, may be induced to render me their assistance in this way. The specimens should be carefully wrapped up in paper and packed in a strong box, and sent to the Geological Survey at Montreal. Delicate fossils should be protected, by being placed in a separate box, otherwise they will be crushed by the others. When a fine fossil, such as a well preserved trilobite, encrinite, or othoceratite, is imbedded in a piece of stone, no attempt should be made to chisel it out. Unless the operation is performed by a most experienced hand, in nine cases out of ten the specimen will be greatly injured, if not totally destroyed. The locality of each specimen should be given. I am particularly desirous of procuring specimens of fossil shells which exhibit the inner surface, since it is from such that the characters of the genera can be best worked out. As soon
As soon as they are examined, the specimens will be sent back, free of expense.
In a paper published in the Canadian Journal for March, 1859, I gave an account of forty-three species of corals from the Devonian rocks of Canada West. In the following article I shall describe eleven new species; and there are from ten to fifteen others which must remain until better specimens can be procured. I think it probable that altogether there are eighty species of corals in these rocks in Canada, and many of them were so prolific, that the zoophyta
must have constituted four-fifths in bulk of the whole fauna of the period. In England and in Germany, the grand coralline horizon of the Devonian era lies in the middle of the series. The fauna of the Corniferous Limestone and Hamilton Shales would therefore appear to be more nearly related to the middle than to the lower Devonian of Europe. Such is the position assigned to them in the third edition of Sir Roderick Murchison's noble work, Siluria. But if it can be shewn that the coralline beds of Canada include the Schoharie Grit of New York (as I strongly suspect they do), then this latter formation must also be added to the middle Devonian. On this latter point, however, I can give no positive opinion, as the fossils of the Schoharie Grit of New York are totally unknown to the scientific world.
The following may be given as a table shewing approximately the position of the different American sub-divisions of the Devonian system, as indicated by the evidence of the fossil corals :
Old Red Sandstone, or
It is important to observe, that in Gaspé we find some of the characteristic fossils of the Oriskany Sandstone intermingled in the same beds with those of the Upper Pentamerus Limestone, and therefore it may be that when these Gaspé rocks are studied, we shall find it difficult to draw the line between the Lower Devonian and the Lower Helderberg