In 2008, scientists discovered one of the world’s oldest complex animal fossils along this popular walking trail. Over 560 million years old, this unusual organism would have lived anchored to the dark sea floor of an ancient ocean. Named Haootia quadriformis, this fossil is unlike any other found in the area, and is of great importance to our understanding of the origin of animal life.

Haootia contains the oldest evidence of muscular tissue ever found – the bundles of muscle fibres that would have allowed it to flex its arms and grab passing food particles can still be seen as impressions in the rock. Scientists think Haootia may be an ancestor of the cnidarians, a group of animals that includes jellyfish and corals.

Fossil Naming Convention Honours the Beothuk Language

Researchers Martin Brasier and Jonathan Antcliffe first referenced the Beothuk language in 2009 within paleontological research by naming a newly discovered Ediacaran fossil Beothukis. In 2014, Alexander Liu and colleagues used a Beothuk word when formally describing this cnidarian-like fossil. Liu et al. considered possible descriptive words, or words that describe particular anatomical features but the Beothuk words were usually very long or complicated to pronounce. Haoot, meaning ‘demon’, was fitting as it was short and suggesting an otherworldly appearance. This was especially significant given the interpretation of the fossil had not been seen in the fossil record until this point. The newly discovered genus was therefore named Haootia.

Getting Here

Drive to Port Union on Route 230 and turn into Port Union South on Main Street, passing the Port Union National Historic District. From the historic district continue eastward, and take the right turn onto Reid Street that leads to the trailhead parking area for the Murphy’s Cove to Lodge’s Pond Trail. Park at the Gazebo. The entrance is located next to St. Catherine’s Haven in Port Union. From here, follow the trail to Back Cove.

UTM: 0346380E, 5373478N


The Murphy’s Cove to Lodge’s Pond Trail is maintained by our partner, Hike Discovery Inc.

Distance7.7 looped
Hiking LevelModerate
Discovery! Geological Tour AppYes
Hike Discovery AppYes

Cultural/Historical Attractions

Port Union is North America’s only union built town and buildings were constructed in 1916. It is designated as a National Historic District. The town was created to be the “capital” for William Ford Coaker and the members of the Fishermen’s Protective Union as they built a new type of commercial and economic footing for Newfoundland’s fishermen. Visit the Sir William Ford Coaker Heritage Foundation to learn more about this fascinating story.

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