MV Blog


Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea

by Melanie Raymond
Publish date
2 September 2015
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Cover of Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea
Cover of Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea
Source: Museum Victoria
One hundred million years ago, Australia was not so much a continent, as a series of islands interconnected by vast shallow waterways. In place of our central deserts, lay great expanses of water, the legendary ‘inland sea’ once sought by European explorers a hundred million years too late. The Eromanga Sea teemed with a rich and diverse fauna and flora which left their remains to fossilise on the bottom of the ancient sea floor.

We didn’t end up using this blurb but it did catch my interest. Danielle Clode, a science writer and previous Thomas Ramsay Fellow at Museum Victoria, sent it to me as part of her sales pitch for a new title. That title, now called Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea, has just been published. It is the third book in the Museum Victoria Nature series.

The first book was Tom Rich’s Polar Dinosaurs and the second, Danielle Clode’s Prehistoric giants. The megafauna of Australia. The latter was shortlisted in the prestigious CBCA awards in 2008 and continues to be a bestseller for Museum Victoria Publishing.

Platypterygius australis: Ichthyosaur Platypterygius australis skull and rostrum specimen. An extinct ichthyosaur from the Cretaceous period.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Prehistoric marine conjures up the vanished world of the Aptian/Albian period. Written for a young audience who may never have heard of the Eromanga Sea, Prehistoric marine introduces us to a foreign landscape and its inhabitants. Monstrous Kronosaurus queenslandicus ruled the shallow inland seas, and other sharp-toothed predators, including sharks and ichthyosaurs, cruised around, looking for prey. On the sea floor, there was also an abundance of life, including the impressive Tropaeum imperator, an ammonite which measured up to 75 cm wide and was mistaken for a tractor tyre when first discovered.

Platypterygius australis cartilage muscle overlay Reconstruction of platypterygius australis, an ichthyosaur from the Cretaceous period with cartilage muscle overlay showing developmental process of drawings.
Image: Peter Trusler
Source: Peter Trusler

You can hear Danielle talk about her book with Robyn Williams on ABC Radio National's Science Show.

  Artist's interpretation of a Kronosaurus catching a pterosaur Prehistoric marine creature Kronosaurus (similar to a crocodile) leaping out of the ocean to catch a pterosaur
Image: Tor Sponga
Source: Bergens Tidende

Small(er) is beautiful

by Wayne
Publish date
4 May 2014
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When we think of Ice Age land animals, we often add the word ‘giants’; certainly many of the mammals of the Pleistocene were very large  – including many here in Australia. In a previous post, we’ve defined megafauna, and looked at a few Australian examples from the Quaternary. There is a different way of looking at this, though – rather than thinking of the Ice Age megafauna as ‘ancient giants’, it is equally valid to study modern-day animals from the perspective of them being dwarf or pygmy forms of their Ice Age relatives.

The phenomenon of dwarfism in post- Ice Age mammals changes the question from “why were they so big back then?” to “why are they so small now?”

Before we go any further, we should keep in mind that not everything was giant-sized in the Pleistocene; there were many ‘normal’ sized animals (by today’s standards) living happily alongside the big guys – it was just that the big ones were really big. It’s also important to remember that many of the ‘pygmy’ forms lived alongside their ‘giant’ relatives, rather than replaced them – there’s no such thing as a succession plan in evolution.

Having said this, here are a few examples of ‘dwarf megafauna’ alive today that had gigantic skeletons in their closets.

An example of ‘miniature giant’ is the modern day Eastern Grey Kangaroo Macropus giganteus; certainly large for an Australian land mammal, but 40-something thousand years ago it was overshadowed by its immense relative Macropus titan by 30%.

  skull of Macropus titan Skull of the Giant Grey Kangaroo Macropus titan. The ‘giant’ part is correct, but the ‘grey’ part is speculative; the colour of the Giant ‘roo is unknown…
Image: Tim Holland
Source: Museum Victoria

Similarly, the largest living Goanna, the Perentie Varanus giganteus, impresses with its size….but is smallfry against the immense extinct evolutionary ‘cousin’ Varanus “Megalania” priscus, – estimated at over twice (some have said thrice) the size.  

­­This also holds true on the Tasmanian Devil Sarcophilus laniarus, which had an over-sized, mainland-resident relative at least 15% larger than its living subspecies. All of these animals are at least in the same genus as their megafaunal relatives, in some cases they are subspecies of their modern-day pygmy forms.

Tasmanian devil skull Skull of the Giant Mainland (rather than Tasmanian) Devil Sarcophilus laniarus
Image: Tim Holland
Source: Museum Victoria

So, whilst it is true to say that in broad terms, there was an extinction event about 45, 000 years ago that led to the ‘end of the Megafauna’, this event was complex - there were other patterns at play that saw downsizing as a successful survival strategy.

Obviously many Australian megafauna taxa became entirely extinct as well, inconveniently leaving no close descendants or relatives, but their story is for yet another blog…

What was the Lloyd Triestino Trio?

by Kate B
Publish date
12 February 2012
Comments (10)

Your Question: What was the Lloyd Triestino Trio?  

Austrian Lloyd was founded as an insurance company in 1833 and when Trieste became part of Italy in 1919 the company name was changed to Lloyd Triestino. A shipping section was established in 1936, and Lloyd Triestino became one of the world's biggest shipping companies.

After World War II Lloyd Triestino re-established its Australian service with existing ships and began a rebuilding programme ordering seven new liners. Of these new liners three were for the Australian service, launched in 1950 these three ships became known as the Treistino Trio.

Pamphlet Express Service Fares to Italy Australia, Oceania & Neptunia Lloyd Triestino Line Jun 1955 Pamphlet Express Service Fares to Italy Australia, Oceania & Neptunia Lloyd Triestino Line Jun 1955 (HT 2610).
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

The first to be built was the Australia launched on 21 May 1950, departing Trieste on 19 April 1951 and arriving in Melbourne on 17 May. The second ship Oceania launched on 30 July 1950, departed Genoa for its maiden voyage on 18 August 1951.The third, Neptunia, launched on 1 October 1950, departing on its maiden voyage on 14 September 1951 and arriving in Brisbane on 18 October.

In 1958 all three ships were withdrawn from service for a refit – air-conditioning was extended throughout the entire ship and accommodation altered to be suitable for 136 first class passengers and 536 tourist class passengers. From October 1960 Neptunia began operating as a single tourist-class ship; however the Australia and Oceania were not altered in this way.

Postcards - Lloyd Triestino Line, circa 1950s Postcards - Lloyd Triestino Line, circa 1950s (HT1497).
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

In 1960 Lloyd Triestino placed orders for two new liners which would be twice the size of the existing Australian fleet and were built to replace the Triestino trio. When these new ships entered the trade in 1963, Australia, Oceania and Neptunia were withdrawn from the Australian trade and transferred to the Italia line. The Australia was renamed the Donizetti, Oceania renamed Rossini and Neptunia renamed Verdi.

The Triestino Trio had all emerged from the same shipyard in the 1950s and spent their entire careers operating together; they ended their careers in La Spezia, Italy within months of each other. Donizetti and Rossini were laid up in late 1976 joined by Verdi in January of 1977. All three ships were offered for sale with Donizetti and Verdi purchased by shipbreakers in June 1977. Rossini was moved to another Italian company, Tirrenia, but with no use for her she was also sold to shipbreakers in September 1977.

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Triestino in MV Collections

Museum Victoria Migration Collection

Picture Australia

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.