Ar­chae­ol­o­gists make their bones in Out­back pad­dock

FOS­SILS ROCK SCIENCE TEAMS

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - VIC­TO­RIA NU­GENT vic­to­ria. nu­gent@ news. com. au

A SIN­GLE pad­dock on a Ju­lia Creek prop­erty yielded two land­mark ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds of 100 mil­lion- year- old fos­silised fish within weeks of each other.

The dis­cov­er­ies were made by palaeon­tol­o­gists from Rich­mond’s Kronosaurus Korner mu­seum and RMIT Univer­sity stu­dents in­vited out to Proa Red­claw Farm fos­sils.

The first find in late July was a fos­sil of a fish called cooyoo, with the find re­veal­ing its teeth were big­ger than pre­vi­ously thought.

A sec­ond search last week un­earthed the skele­tons of more than 20 minia­ture fish in­side a clam shell.

Cu­ra­tor of Kronosaurus Korner Dr Ti­mothy Hol­land said both finds were deeply sig­nif­i­cant, with it pos­si­ble that the small fish could even be a new species.

“It’s two very ex­cit­ing finds

to

search

for in an area prob­a­bly the size of a football field,” he said.

“Both times we were only out there for about an hour.”

Dr Hol­land was turn­ing over pieces of mud­stone search­ing for bone when he found an eye socket and jaw of cooyoo.

He said the dis­cov­ery had un­locked new knowl­edge about the gi­ant pre­his­toric fish, which was more me­tres long.

“It was like an an­cient jig­saw puz­zle,” he said.

The sec­ond find was made by RMIT Univer­sity tu­tor Paul Ter and has been hailed as the best pre­served ex­am­ple of smaller fish from Aus­tralia’s an­cient in­land sea.

Dr Hol­land said the en­tire re­gion was con­tin­u­ing to yield

than

three im­por­tant palaeon­to­log­i­cal finds, with a coun­cil worker also pick­ing up a cooyoo skull in the past week while spray­ing cac­tus plants.

“We’ve had peo­ple find fos­sils in the schoolyard be­fore when they were dig­ging out rose beds,” he said.

Prop­erty owner Dun­can Fysh is no stranger to ar­chae­ol­o­gists tak­ing an in­ter­est in his prop­erty, with vis­its steadily in­creas­ing since he found an ichthyosaur while out on a mo­tor­bike a decade ago.

“They haven’t even scratched the sur­face,” he said.

“The rea­son they’re find­ing them now is be­cause of the drought, there’s no grass.

“On lots of ar­eas of the place al­most ev­ery rock has a fos­sil on it.

Pic­ture: DUN­CAN AND JUDY FYSH

STONE STORY: The jaws of the cooyoo ( left) and the some of the small fish found in­side a clam shell.

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