Tuesday, 18 August 2020


In 1993, John Fam and his father were collecting from outcrops exposed at the Motorcross track near Brannan Lake in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada when something unusual caught John's eye. 

This was a weekly father-son event to get outdoors and explore nature and dig into our ancient world. 

The site is one of the classic Vancouver Island fossil localities with outcrops from the Santonian-Maastrichtian, Upper Cretaceous Haslam Formation. Here we find well-preserved nautiloids and ammonites — Cadoceras, Pseudoschloenbachia, Epigoniceras — the bivalves — Inoceramus, Sphenoceramus — gastropods, and classic Nanaimo Group decapods — Hoploparia and Linuparus

On rare occasions, we find fossil fruit and seeds which tell the story of the terrestrial history of Vancouver Island. And it was one of these seeds that John unearthed back in 1993. On this particular day, John picked up a tasty looking concretion whose shape foretold the possibility of ancient life hidden inside. Always one with a keen eye, he carefully packed it up and took it home. 

The next day, he cracked it open and a beautiful fossil cone met his eyes. He had found a cone from an ancient family of coniferous trees. 

Knowing it was unusual and important, he kept it safe and eventually met and donated it to Dr. Ruth Stockey, a palaeontologist who specializes in plants and seeds. 

Their collaboration just came full circle — the seed was indeed a new species and was published today in the American Journal of Botany. Meet Araucaria famii. Congratulations to Ruth and team for studying and writing up this important find. A huge congrats to John and his amazing father for their curiosity, collaboration and providing role-models for us all. 

John kept a few of the fossilized seeds & was gifted a cast of the cone from Stockey. His seeds might have cool embryos in them, you never know.  It sure would be nice to look at the x.s. to see for sure how many cotyledons are inside. These are the embryonic leaves in seed-bearing plants, one or more of which are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed. 

It sure looked like two. Ruth Stockey & team are on it. I’m sure they’ll update us when they know for sure.

I was recently on a fossil field trip with John and it warmed my heart to see him, now a father himself, sharing that passion with his eldest son. We may well have more Famii's to look forward to. I'm thinking we will. 

Here is the link to this paper: