Burke Museum Home

Stonerose fossils

The Oldest Salmon 
Eosalmo driftwoodensis
Family Salmonidae

Fossil salmon from the Republic site are now some of the stars of the Burke Museum’s paleontology collections. These salmon have the scientific name of Eosalmo driftwoodensiseo means "new" in Latin, and the first of these fossils was found in Driftwood Creek, British Columbia. Many partial specimens have been collected in the Stonerose fossil beds and from similar ancient lake beds across the border in Canada.

This Easalmo fossil, an ancestor of today's salmon, is just 35 cm long.
Photo by Ron Eng

Eohiodon woodruffi
Eohiodon woodruffi, another fish type from the Stonerose fossil site.
Photo by Karl Volkman

There is no evidence that the lakes of the Republic area 50 million years ago had rivers connecting them to the sea. Eosalmo fossils from British Columbia show all size ranges of juveniles, as well as small-, medium-, and large-size adults. Therefore, this ancient salmon species was like a trout that remains in fresh water all its life, and the distinctive habit that living salmon have of going to the oceans to feed evolved much later in their history.

The School of Fisheries, University of Washington has a Web site dedicated to the history of salmon fishing in our state.