BENEATH THE SURFACE

Our an­cient fos­silised seas

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS -

RIGHT NOW, Australia is a hot­bed for pre­his­toric re­search, par­tic­u­larly in cen­tral and northern Queensland, with al­most all of it ac­ces­si­ble to those tow­ing a camper trailer. Teams are still find­ing fos­silised spec­i­mens in sand­stones and shale de­posits formed in a for­mer vast in­land sea, ex­tend­ing from the Gulf of Car­pen­taria to cen­tral Queensland, northern NSW and South Australia. Be­fore the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal boom, finds were of­ten made by prop­erty own­ers but, in the past 20 years, con­certed ef­forts are

un­cov­er­ing ev­i­dence of a whole new world of crea­tures dat­ing to the age of di­nosaurs in far-reach­ing out­crops and on fea­ture­less plains. Many va­ri­eties of species have been found in the wa­ters, shores and on is­lands of this in­land sea, in­clud­ing huge sauro­pod di­nosaurs, with their long necks and tails mak­ing them among the largest ever to have walked the earth. Meateat­ing theropods have also been un­cov­ered, some sim­i­lar to the fa­mous T-Rex, oth­ers sim­i­lar in size to a chicken, winged pterosaurs and huge ma­rine rep­tiles. Trav­ellers can now en­joy these finds and even par­take in dig­gings or the prepa­ra­tion of the fos­sils. Rich­mond was home to the Kronosaurus Korner and has a statue and a mu­seum dis­play­ing lo­cal finds. Kronosaurus was a large ma­rine preda­tor, grow­ing to 11m in length, with a head more than 2m in length full of huge teeth. Its best known spec­i­men ‘Kris’ was dug up by an Amer­i­can ex­pe­di­tion in 1932 and re­stored in 1959, when a family do­nated funds to Har­vard Univer­sity. In Lark Quarry, 110km south-west of Win­ton, you'll find ev­i­dence of a 3300 foot­print stam­pede, caused by small panic-stricken di­nosaurs at­tempt­ing to es­cape a large two­legged car­ni­vore. The foot­prints, left in mud around the edge of a lake, are housed and pre­served for all to see. In Win­ton, the Her­itage-Listed Cor­field and Fitz­mau­rice gen­eral store holds a col­lec­tion of di­nosaur and other fos­sil re­mains. The Aus­tralian Age of Di­nosaurs Mu­seum in Cen­tral Queensland is a real gem, found 13km south of Win­ton and 12km off the Lands­bor­ough High­way on a gravel road. The mu­seum runs tours of its fos­sil prepa­ra­tion area and ex­hibits. If you are su­per-keen, you can join the mu­seum staff in pre­par­ing spec­i­mens for dis­play, or join a field ex­pe­di­tion to dig for di­nosaur re­mains. West to Bou­lia is an­other col­lec­tion of di­nosaur-aged ma­rine fos­sils from an area well away from any re­mains of land liv­ing or­gan­isms. Here, (and the Kronosaurus Corner), you’ll learn of the re­cent rare dis­cov­ery of an early dino-bird evolv­ing from di­nosaur an­ces­tors.

Dr Poropat with a Sa­van­nasaurus. Cour­tesy of the Age of Di­nosaurs mu­seum

Mike D’Arcy un­cov­er­ing the re­mains of the Nanan­tius eos 'dino-bird' (a jaw, up­per arm and toe bones, above) that links a meat eat­ing di­nosaur with the com­mon crow. Cour­tesy of the Kronosaurus Korner

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