About Prehistoric PEI

Ancient trackways cross the landscape of prehistoric PEI.
290 million years ago, an Ichniotherium left these tracks in the mud of prehistoric PEI.

Did you know that, aside from being Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island also has lots of fossils? Imagine how surprised you'd be if you came across some old reptile bones or tracks in a rock on the beach. You'd probably wonder how old they are, where they came from and how they got there. You'd also wonder who you could talk to about your new find, and you'd want to know where you could put it so everyone could share in your discovery.

Fossil fern.

Prehistoric PEI is a documentary series that talks about these kinds of fossil discoveries; who found them and where you can find their fossils today. It also talks about how people are trying to make a place on PEI where fossils can be seen by everyone living on, or visiting, the island. If we're very lucky, maybe we'll get to show you a real PEI fossil dig, showing you new fossils as they emerge from their million-year slumber.

Some of these fossils come from our planet's Carboniferous Period (355-300 million years ago), while others come from the later Permian Period (299-252 million years ago). Back then, PEI looked very different from the way it looks today. Our little island formed one small part of a massive supercontinent called Pangaea. Since it sat a lot closer to the equator, the weather felt a bit like the tropics do now. In this hot, swampy landscape, giant dragonfly-like creatures, called Meganeura, flew over forests of primitive ferns, mosses and horsetail plants the size of trees. Little ancient lizards, like Erpetonyx arsenaultorum — named after the boy who later found it in Cape Egmont, PEI — left their bones and trackways across the ancient land.

A Dimetrodon surveys his domain.

A few million years later, in the Permian Period (290 million years ago), PEI's swamps began changing into a vast desert filled with red rocks and sand that later became the Island's famous red earth. Around this time of changes, the three-meter-long Bathygnathus borealis — a relative of the famous sailbacked reptile Dimetrodon — roamed the future province. These beasts looked a lot like the dinosaurs that came 60 million years later in the Triassic Period, but they are actually more closely related to human beings. Their mouths held special teeth, called canines, and they bit and chewed their meat much like modern mammals — including humans — do. Some scientists also think they used the giant sails on their backs to heat up, or cool down. If so, then this would be like a prehistoric version of the way your own body regulates its temperature to make you more comfortable in hot, and cool, weather.

Prehistoric PEI will show you how this amazing world looked, and how PEI played an important part in the early history of life on Earth. Once we've finished making it, you'll be able to watch it online anytime you like (and share it with others who you think might like it too). Come back and visit this Website often, and follow our Facebook page, so we can keep you up to date on the continuing story of Prehistoric PEI.